WSU Clark County Extension

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Ostrich Fern

Scientific name: Matteuccia struthiopteris

Plant Requirements
Zone:3 to 7
Sun:Partial shade to full shade
Plant Characteristics
Height:6 ft
Width:8 ft
Additional Characteristics



Wildlife value

Description A large, feathery, deciduous fern that forms dense clumps in moist, shaded areas.

Ostrich fern is a clump-forming, upright to arching, vase shape rhizomatous, deciduous fern which can grow to a height of 3’ to 6’ and spread to a width of 5’ to 8’. It will grow to its largest size when set out in cool, shaded spots.

This fern features green fronds which derive their common name for their resemblance to the tail of an ostrich. The stalks bear 20-60 leaflets (known as pinnae), with the longest near the tips, with a gradual decrease in width towards the base. Each leaflet is divided into 20-40 segments. Fronds emerge from the ground in the spring and are referred to as ‘fiddleheads’. As the season progresses they unfurl to their eventual 3’ to 6’ length. In the fall the fronds start to disintegrate as the rhizome enters the dormant season.

Ostrich ferns are easily grown in average, medium to wet soil in part shade to full shade. In the Pacific Northwest they look their best in rich alluvial floodplains west of the Cascades where the soil stays evenly moist all during the growing season. Over time single plants will spread by underground rhizomes to form dense colonies. This type of fern will do well in a native plant garden along side trilliums, hosta, sword fern, and other shade loving plants.

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For assistance, contact Dr. Charles Brun (, (360) 397-6060 5701
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