May 15, 2021
You can’t miss a cinnamon fern this time of year!


By Mary Reid Barrow

 There’s no mistaking a cinnamon fern this time of year!

Walk along low areas where ferns and other water loving plants grow and you will surely see  tall cinnamon-colored spikes growing erect from the center of some of the ferns. These fronds  look as if they had been sprinkled with reddish brown cinnamon straight from your spice rack.

Standing tall in the very center surrounded by bright green fronds, the cinnamon-colored fronds look as if they are the center piece pf a  beautiful green fern bouquet.

This grand  display is really all about reproduction.  Ferns in general have no seeds but reproduce  from spores which are contained in little sack-like structures on their leaves.

In the case of the cinnamon ferns, it  presents its spores in a colorful way in the form of cinnamon spikes.   The surrounding green fronds are infertile.

Rub your fingers along the cinnamon fronds and they feel like they are made of velvet. No wonder songbirds nab bits of the fuzzy nap to line their nests.

Cinnamon ferns grow well in many conditions–sunny or shade, dry or wet.  They grow and spread from underground rhizomes.  According to “Native Plants for Southeastern Virginia including Hampton Roads Region,” it is a host to three  native caterpillars too.

Like all ferns, Osmundastrum cinnamomeumn is an ancient plant going back millions of years.  It is native toNorth America as well as South America and Asia

As far as ferns go, we have a lot of beautiful ones here in Hampton Roads.  It’s apparent when you walk trails along  the ponds at First Landing State Park and other low lying areas this time of year.   You feel like you are in a great big fresh new green heaven.

Yet among all the ferns, the cinnamon fern stands a notch above the rest this time of year with its striking cinnamon fronds.

 Do you have a favorite tree or plant with a story to tell?  What relationships have you observed  between plants and critters?  Who eats whom?  Who has babies where?   Send an email to




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