Since I wrote about a relatively uncommon bladder fern the other day, I thought it would be prudent to back up and cover the common ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris, Dryopteridaceae). Every year I find these ferns in a large congregation in a wet forest in southeast Michigan. This location isn’t as frequently flooded as a floodplain forest, but it’s consistently wetter than a mesic southern forest. This in-between zone seems ideal for their growth.
These ferns are notable for their sheer size; they usually exceed three feet in height, and can grow up to about five feet. Dense clusters like this give off a Jurassic Park vibe…among these ancient plants it’s easy to imagine dinosaurs just on the other side.
On a more mundane note, these are probably the most common ferns found in garden centers. Since they’re so easy to come by they’re a relatively inexpensive and exotic addition to landscaping. Just keep them out of full sun or they’ll burn to a crisp. I’ve found that dappled part sun or shade work well.