Matteuccia struthiopteris (L.) Todaro
Matteuccia pensylvanica (Willd.) Raymond
Matteuccia struthiopteris (L.) Todaro var. pensylvanica (Willd.) Morton
Matteuccia struthiopteris (L.) Todaro var. pubescens (Terry) Clute
Onoclea struthiopteris (L.) Hoffm. p.p.
Onoclea struthiopteris (L.) Hoffm. var. pensylvanica (Willd.) B. Boivin
Pteretis nodulosa (Michx.) Nieuwl.
Pteretis pensylvanica (Willd.) Fernald
Ostrich Fern, Fiddlehead Fern, Garden Fern, Hardy Fern
Ostrich ferns are natives of North America, as well as temperate regions of the northern hemisphere throughout the world.
Identification: These ferns are among the largest of land (vs. tree ferns, reaching heights of up to 4' (1.3 m). Foragers for wild edibles will recognize the “fiddleheads,” or tightly coiled baby fronds, that appear in the spring. They often appear in clusters around a central point, leaning away from each other to produce a shape like an inverted cone as they unfurl. As the fern matures, each fiddlehead becomes an attractive long frond that resembles an ostrich plume. The frond becomes wider toward the end. These fronds are sterile, and reach 4' (1.3 m) or more in length and up to 12" (30 cm) in width. Fertile fronds appear during the summer, reaching up to 16" (40 cm) in length. About a third of this length is the petiole (stem); the rest is a compact, paddle-shaped structure that turns from green to brown, persisting through the winter. In many ferns, sterile and fertile fronds are more similar to each other, so the stark difference between the two in this fern is an identifying characteristic.
Edibility: Young, tightly coiled fiddleheads, the state vegetable of Vermont, are prized by many, and are often available for sale in grocery stores in the spring. Or you can find your own, provided that they are less than 6" (15 cm) high and still tightly furled. Add them to salads or boil them for 10 minutes to produce a dish like asparagus.
Cobb, Boughton, Farnsworth, Elizabeth & Lowe, Cheryl, Peterson Field Guides: A Field Guide to Ferns and Their Related Families of Northwestern and Central North America, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005, p. 164
Matteuccia struthiopteris at Illinois Wildflowers
Matteuccia struthiopteris at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Matteuccia struthiopteris on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site
Matteuccia struthiopteris on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Matteuccia struthiopteris on CalPhotos
Matteuccia struthiopteris on eFloras
Matteuccia struthiopteris description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.