This plant of the week isn’t one full of flowers but is indeed one of a stately manor, adding a touch of class to any waterside. Indeed this British and European native, is better know as the Royal fern and so rightly deserved. In my mind, it’s the spring time when the ferns start to show their beauty off, the fonds, slowly uncurling their beautiful fronds, in a light green with light brown hair covering them. Once opened, they go a slightly darker colour before going a beautiful buttery yellow and a tinge of brown.
Osmunda is an ancient plant, dating back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the world dating back to 260 million years ago indeed many fossils have been found around the world including parts of the uk. It differs from other ferns by the fact the have fronds that are there to photosynthesise only and fronds that only are there to produce spores, these sporagia, are brown in colour and indeed look like the fern is flowering.
The name Osmunda is thought to of come from the Saxon god of war, Osmunder! Regalis is from the stately royal look of the fern. It loves growing in damp places including woodland, grasslands and of course, near water courses, it will also survive on limestone outcrops. It is indeed a native of the uk as well as the rest of Europe and into parts of Africa and Asia. In the uk, it is making a come back after years of collecting both For the plant and for the it’s roots. Why it’s root? Well it made into Osmunda fibre which was used as a potting fibre for tropical orchids. But that’s not its only uses. It can be eaten in its young state and has a taste of asparagus but it’s the sporagia that has the most interesting use, for many centuries in Slavic traditions , the sporagia or Peruns flower was thought to have magical powers from unlocking demons to understanding trees. These had to be collected on Kupala night (thought to be 24/25of June), the collector, had to draw a circle around themselves and the plant, protecting themselves from the taught of demons! Kupala night was changed to Easter eve after Christianity.
In our gardens, it’s best planted near its favourite waterways, around ponds, lakes and streams, where we can enjoy both looking at the plant head on and from the reflection in the water. They just need a dampsite with a good amount of humus present, doesn’t need much looking after either, just the old fronds removed In late winter. No real pests and diseases either. Some great forms are also available including a couple listed below, purpurascens, that starts of with purple stems and fronds, with the foliage turning green, leaving the stems a shade of purple, love this form! Cristata is a form with more divided leaves
They can be seen widespread in different gardens, two of my favourite places to see them are Savil gardens near Windsor and Lockstock water gardens, near Stockbridge, Hampshire, also most good garden centres or nurseries will sell them. Www.fibrex.co.uk is also a brilliant place to buy