Comptonia peregrina

Comptonia peregrina
Comptonia peregrina 
sweet fern
SIZE/TYPE small shrub
LEAVES deciduous broadleaf
COLOUR OF LEAVES light green
FLOWERS insignificant or non-blooming
LOCATION full to partial sun
SOIL TYPE acidic (peaty)
SOIL MOISTURE REQUIREMENTS dry and sharply drained (xeriscape)
USDA zone (lowest) 2   (down to -45°C)
FOR ZONE 5+6 Code of winter protection zone 5+6
FOR ZONE 7 Code of winter protection zone 7
BELONGS TO CATEGORIES Deciduous broadleaf
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Sweet fern is a unique plant, the only species in its own genus. It was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 and named liquidambar peregrina. It comes from North America and naturally occurs in sandy, dry loams among pine trees and surrounded by heather.

Sweet fern is a small, deciduous, rare shrub which looks like a fluffy bush of small-leaved ferns. Its fresh green leaves are only about 1 cm wide and up to 6 cm long, shallowly lobed to almost serrated at margins, and release a sweet and spicy fragrance, especially when crushed. Flowers are insignificant. The plant can grow up to 1m tall but is usually half the size, forming dense tufts.

Its leaves are edible and were used for making tea with bitter but not unpleasant taste owing to tannins which they contain. Sweet fern leaves are also still today used as a seasoning, combining the tastes of honey, eucalyptus, and pine. It is common for pork and chicken and is fantastic with oily fish such as salmon and mackerel. It can be used in dry rubs and marinades, and makes a great infusion with rum, vodka, and rye.

It grows slowly and is difficult to transplant. Thanks to runners it forms colonies. Sweet fern loves sunny and dry locations with poor, sandy soil of acid pH, but will adapt to most soil types including neutral or lime-based, and once established it can take temporary flooding. It is resistant to cold, strong wind, and drought. Hardy to -45°C (USDA zone 2).

Last update 02-03-2020

  • STANDARD QUALITY - Plants of this group are 1st class quality with number of branches and overall density adequate to their size and age, considering they were container grown.
  • DE LUXE QUALITY - This label guarantees a luxurious quality of manually selected plants that, compared to their height and age, are exceptionally dense and beautiful.
  • EXTRA - These plants are usually mature and bigger specimens with exceptional overall appearance.
  • STANDARD (as described in the plant form) means a tree with a trunk of 190-210 cm and a crown at the top, unless specified differently. The commercial size for trees is their girth measured in the height of 1m from ground.
  • HOBBY - These plants are of the same quality as our standard-quality plants but younger and therefore cheaper.
  • SHRUB - a woody plant with branches growing bushy from the ground level.
  • HALF-STANDARD or MINI-STANDARD - a small tree with shorter trunk, its size is usually specified.
  • FEATHERED - These are trees with branches growing already from the base of the trunk and up along the stem.
  • GRASSES and PERENNIALS - Sizes given usually read the diameter of the pot or the clump, as specified.
LARGE PLANTS over 150 cmspecimens, screening and hedging shrubs

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