Comptonia peregrina
sweet fern

Comptonia peregrina

Comptonia peregrina
Comptonia peregrina
Photos courtesy Renee Brecht
Britton & Brown
Botanical name: Comptonia peregrina (L.) Coult.
Common name: sweet fern
Synonomy: Comptonia peregrina (L.) Coult. var. aspleniifolia (L.) Fern.
Myrica aspleniifolia
Myrica aspleniifolia
L. var. tomentosa (Chev.) Gleason
Myrica peregrina
(L.) Kuntze
Group: dicot
Family: Myricaceae
Growth type: shrub, subshrub
Duration: perennial
Origin: native
Plant height: 1 - 4.5'
Foliage: Fragrant, pubescent. Alternate, simple leaves, resembling fern (hence the name) that are 2.5-4.7" long on red-brown to gray woody stems
Flower: brown catkins clustered at the ends of branches, 1.2-1.6" long. May be monecious or dioecious.
Flowering time: March - April
Habitat: Dry, sterile, sandy to rocky soils in pinelands or pine barrens, clearings, or edges of woodlots
Range in New Jersey: statewide
Heritage ranking, if any: n/a
Misc. Sweetfern fruits are eaten by flickers, white tailed deer, and it has limited use as food and cover for cottontail rabbits and ruffed grouse.

Comptonia, after Henry Compton, Bishop of London from 1632-1713, by Sir Josiah Banks, peregrina, from the Latin, "foreign"

A colonizer species, follows fire in open canopy.

Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) reports that it has been variously used by "many Native American tribes used different parts of Comptonia peregrina variously: as an incense for ritual ceremonies; for medicinal purposes; as a stimulant or tonic; as a food seasoning; and as a poison (D. A. Moerman 1986)."