An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Sweetfern’s Buds Set

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Although its name implies otherwise, Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) is not a fern. Rather, it is a flowering shrub in the Bayberry family, Myricaceae, whose leaves bear some resemblance to fern fronds. It does deserve the other half of its common name, however. When Sweetfern’s aromatic leaves are crushed (or just brushed against) a sweet, spicy fragrance can easily be detected.

Male and female Sweetfern flowers are formed separately. At this time of year, the male flower buds, or catkins, running along the stems are very evident, although they become more so in the spring when they expand and dangle in the breeze, distributing pollen (see insert).

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3 responses

  1. Penny March

    Found this information about the benefits of sweet fern online–good for the itching of poison ivy! http://www.naturespoisonivyrelief.com/ I suppose you could boil up some leaves yourself. Was sweet fern used in stuffing mattresses?

    November 3, 2016 at 10:20 am

    • I’ve never heard of stuffing a mattress with it, but the smell would be unbelievable!

      November 3, 2016 at 2:14 pm

  2. BR

    Hi Mary, I had not noticed this happening. Will look. I learned about making a poultice with sweet fern to treat poison ivy and it works on mosquito bites. I am sure the person who made it for my family learned from the Abenaki People nearby where I lived. Best and gratitude. My daughter is loving your book. Bern

    November 3, 2016 at 4:04 pm

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