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Growing Ostrich Ferns for Fiddleheads?

 
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I'm in Georgia, zone 8a and it's an annual tradition to hunt fiddleheads for an early spring foraged delicacy. However, I'm getting concerned about reports that the Ostrich Fern population is getting decimated since this delicacy has gotten popular.

Has anyone planted ostrich ferns on their property as a way to sustain the population and provide a way to harvest fiddleheads without hurting the ecosystem? Are there any special planting considerations? (besides shade and moist, like all ferns).

Thanks!
 
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I admit I tried and they didn't make it - it took a couple of years before they died, but I think we're too dry in the summer. I think it would be worth trying if you can find them. I did read up on how to try and artificially reproduce them - ferns aren't like common vegetables in the reproduction department.
 
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Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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It's easy enough to transplant the ferns if you know where a good patch is. You can also pick the brown "feather" the ostrich fern is known for. This is where the spores are. In my area these fronds seem to hold the spore until spring. And they will continue to hold until the frond is tapped by a creature or human or shaken by the wind.

The ferns like to be around and even in very shallow water. If they have water you can plant them in full sunlight. Otherwise part shade to shade is best.

They're pretty inconsistent, though. I've seen patches growing just fine on high and dry scrabbly soil on rock cuts. Others growing awesome in the spring runoff that dries up by summer. Some growing lushly in the shaded areas of part forest and part meadow. So they can be quite flexible in preferred locations. It's the establishing part that seems to be the trick.

From what I've researched for city, they seem to be pretty happy in a rain garden planted at the downspout of your eavestrough. The shady side of the house likely preferred.

I'm in the process myself of getting them started, having transplanted some last fall, as well as generously seeding with the spore. It will be my ongoing Ostrich fern fiddlehead project, because I am determined to get a good patch or two or three going.

If picking in the wild or from your own patch, treat each plant as you would asparagus. Don't pick all the fiddleheads. Leave at least half on. I tend to pick only 2 - 3 per plant.

 
Jay Angler
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Great info Viola! I'm on the wrong side of the Rockies, so there isn't native Ostrich Fern growing but I know it's popular in Eastern Canada.
Possibly I should try again as since my first experiment we've dug a small settling pond for winter run-off from a ditch. It dries out completely in the summer, so I've been trying to think of plants that would like to live in the shallow area of it and from your description, Ostrich Fern might do the job. It's in *very* deep shade much of the day, but not all day.
 
Viola Bluez
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Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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That sounds like an absolutely perfect spot to plant Ostrich ferns!
 
Viola Bluez
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Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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The fiddleheads I transplanted into the ditch (spring run off only) in the fall are growing well.

Still to determine if the spores from the fronds are rooting/growing.

Hope the file upload works. I don't have an URL for the pics otherwise.

20190608_090036.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20190608_090036.jpg]
20190608_090050.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20190608_090050.jpg]
 
Viola Bluez
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Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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These were 8 June 2019 pics. So a bit farther along now. But that is our late spring start this year. Otherwise had snow lingering in spots right up to end of April.
 
Jay Angler
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Viola, your pics uploaded fine. Any chance when they're fully open you could take as close a picture of the frond leaf pattern as possible and post it?  My sister in Ontario has a number of ferns growing nicely in her shaded front garden, and I'm really curious to know if they might be Ostrich Ferns. That wouldn't be perfect for identification, but it would help. Thanks!
 
Viola Bluez
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Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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Enlarged frond from pic at end.

I also highly recommend this site as well for ID: The University of Maine's Bulletin #2540, Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads

The main points to look for are:

  • The D-Channel groove on a smooth stem (no hair). Think of celery.
  • The burst brownish onion skin type papery fragments that covered over the fiddleheads before they started growing.
  • The spore filled brown frond that sticks up from the mound like a Fiddlehead marker.


  • The adult Fiddlehead plant is a lush lovely fern, often used in shade gardens. For searching this time of year when they are in full fern, if the frond shape hasn't yet become set in the brain as exclusive to this fern, you can still see signs of the brown frond in amongst the ferns.

    Once you know the brown frond, you can very quickly identify this fern.

    Edited to get the link working and add the pic.  
    Screen-Shot-2019-06-23-at-2.41.50-PM.png
    [Thumbnail for Screen-Shot-2019-06-23-at-2.41.50-PM.png]
     
    Viola Bluez
    Posts: 49
    Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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    Sorry. I don't think that enlarged at all, really.
     
    Viola Bluez
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    Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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    Ok. Without cheating with a screenshot. But I still don't think it's a great pic to see. However, check out the fronds on the University of Maine link I added previously. You can easily zoom in on 3 of them to see.

    I'm not at farm currently to take more pics, but will continue to document because the pics can be so helpful.
    20190608_090050-(1).jpg
    [Thumbnail for 20190608_090050-(1).jpg]
     
    Viola Bluez
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    Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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    Some frond pics:
    20190628_210259.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 20190628_210259.jpg]
    20190628_210308.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 20190628_210308.jpg]
    20190628_210313.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 20190628_210313.jpg]
    20190628_210317.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 20190628_210317.jpg]
     
    Viola Bluez
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    Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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    As up close as I am able.
     
    Jay Angler
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    Thanks for the pictures! Here's one my sister took and sent from Ontario.
    Ann-s-fern.JPG
    [Thumbnail for Ann-s-fern.JPG]
    Does this look like Ostrich Fern to those familiar with it?
     
    Viola Bluez
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    Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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    That very possibly is. The frond looks a bit crumpled, but it looks like the real thing. The ostrich fern is often sold at nurseries for shade gardens because it is so lovely.

    Here's a link that shows many angles of the Ostrich Fern: Ontario Ferns: Ostrich Fern Matteuccia struthiopteris.
     
    Viola Bluez
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    That frond may be a new just emerging one for this year? Like a butterfly coming out of the cocoon.
     
    Jay Angler
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    Great pictures on that site, and the map actually suggested their range includes Vancouver Isl. I had been worried that there could be a Vancouver Isl look alike that isn't as edible. I've never noticed any locally with the papery cover that is one of the identifying characteristics of the Ostrich Fern.

    I do think Ann's picture is last year's and is just looking ratty from age, as the new ones in the photos start out green. I will keep collecting evidence!
     
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