My son and I went for a walk in the woods today. It was nice and sunny and not too cold. I took some pictures of ostrich fern rosettes to show what to look for in the off season. Last year I didn’t have a confident identification until after the fiddleheads had opened too far to be edible. This year I am waiting in eager anticipation, and was quite happy to see signs of life in the dormant rosettes.
Most of what I know about ostrich ferns has come from Samuel Thayer’s The Forager’s Harvest (the book, as well as the DVD by the same name).
The rosette above has both infertile fronds and one fertile frond from last year’s growth. Not all rosette’s have both still attached by this time of year. The one closest to my hand is an infertile frond, and the darker somewhat blurry one bellow it is a fertile frond. Both of these show the deep groove that is characteristic of ostrich fern.
The next three photos show this year’s fiddleheads starting to form inside the papery sheaths that they will soon begin to outgrow. I believe that the tiny dark brown fiddleheads around the edges are ones that never fully developed last year, but I’m not sure (anyone else know?).
All of these pictures were taken in a small floodplain next to a creek that runs through the woods, but ostrich fern is sometimes used as an ornamental landscaping plant. I actually hope to transplant some from a flowerbed at my parent’s house one of these days.
Once the fiddleheads start coming out around here, I will try to keep you updated.
Thanks for reading,
* any pictures or descriptions of plants or information about them is provided for your information and inspiration. I highly recommend foraging, but buy yourself a reliable guide like either of Samuel Thayer’s books from Forager’s Harvest Press.
** I rely heavily on Nature’s Garden and The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer, and to a lesser extent Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill. All three books are quite good, however I find Thayer’s work more reliable and detailed.