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Edible uses


The young fruits are eaten as a pleasant nibble[1][2][3]. The aromatic leaves, fresh or dried, are used to make a palatable tea[1][2][4][3]. The leaves are also used as a seasoning[3].

Unknown part


Material uses

The leaves are used as a lining in baskets etc in order to preserve the fruit[1].

The crushed leaves repel insects[4]. They can be thrown onto a camp fire to keep mosquitoes away[5].

The dried leaves have been burnt as an incense[5].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Sweet fern was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it especially as a poultice to treat a variety of complaints[5]. It is still used for most of the same purposes in modern herbalism.

The leaves are astringent, blood purifier, expectorant and tonic[6][2][7][5]. A tea made from the leaves and flowering tops is used as a remedy for diarrhoea, headache, fevers, catarrh, vomiting of blood, rheumatism etc[8][7][5]. The infusion has also been used to treat ringworm[5]. The leaves have also been used as a poultice for toothaches, sprains etc[9][5]. A cold water infusion of the leaves has been used externally to counter the effect of poison ivy[8][7][5] and to bathe stings, minor haemorrhages etc[9].

The leaves are harvested in early summer and dried for later use[9].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nitrogen fixer


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - it has a very tough seed coat and also contains germination inhibitors and so is very difficult to germinate[10]. It is probably best to harvest the seed 'green' (after the seed has fully developed but before it dries on the plant) and sow immediately in a cold frame. If the seed has been stored then soaking in hot water for 24 hours will leach out some of the inhibitors and also help to soften the seed coat. Scarification will also help as will a period of cold stratification. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer[K].

Root cuttings, 4cm long December in a frame[11][10]. Plant the root horizontally. High percentage[11]. Suckers removed in the dormant season and potted up or planted into their permanent positions[12]. Plants can be difficult to move successfully[9].

Layering in spring[9].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Requires a peaty or light loam lime-free soil[13][14][12]. Requires an acid well-drained soil of low to medium fertility in partial shade but tolerates full sun if the soil does not dry out in the summer[12]. Tolerates dry sandy soils when grown in the shade[12].

A very ornamental plant[15], it is hardy to at least -25°c[16][12]. This form is probably no more than a phenotypic variant of the species that is found growing in harsh conditions[12]. The crushed leaves are very aromatic[14], their scent is most noticeable in the early morning and the evening[9]. The scent increases when the leaves are dried[17]. This species is somewhat intolerant of root disturbance and should be planted out into its permanent position whilst small[9].

Suckering freely[16], this plant is well suited to clothing banks on soils of low fertility[12]. It has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[12].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Drought
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
Flower Colour
Flower Type


  1. ? Harris. B. C. Eat the Weeds. Pivot Health (1973-00-00)
  2. ? Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold ISBN 0442222009 (1982-00-00)
  3. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  4. ? Kavasch. B. Native Harvests. Vintage Books ISBN 0-394-72811-4 (1979-00-00)
  5. ? Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
  6. ? 6.06.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
  7. ? Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
  8. ? Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
  9. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  10. ? 10.010.1 Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
  11. ? 11.011.1 Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
  12. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  13. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
  14. ? 14.014.1 Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. Murray ISBN 0-7195-5043-2 (1992-00-00)
  15. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
  16. ? 16.016.1 Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Shrubs. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30258-2 (1989-00-00)
  17. ? Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World. Robert Hale. London. ISBN 0-7090-5440-8 (1994-00-00)
  18. ? Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. (1950-00-00)