Matteuccia struthiopteris, the ostrich fern or shuttlecock fern, is native to Europe, Asia and North America and is naturalised in the UK. An extremely beautiful and stately fern, it is dimorphic with two distinctly different types of foliage. The very architectural and characteristically-shaped foliage in the spring make it relatively easy to identify. These upright, lime-green fronds which usually appear in March carry no spores and grow in the shape of tall elegant ostrich plumes or lacy shuttle-cocks and are followed in the late summer by the completely different fertile fronds, which are shorter, stiffer and darkish-brown in colour, their leathery pinnae rolling inwards to enclose the sori.
It prefers cool dappled shade and a moist soil that is rich in organic matter. Whatever the soil conditions, it will gradually spread by stoloniferous runners forming new crowns and in time, a large drifting colony. For this reason it should be given plenty of room. Because of its dimorphic nature and the way it changes its appearance later in the year, it is best planted in association with other plants that also hold the attention. In the larger woodland setting it blends well with tree-ferns, Gunneras and Lysichitum and in a smaller-scale, more tropical setting, its foliage contrasts brilliantly with the larger leaf shapes of Canna and Hedychium. These two genera are just getting into their full stride as the Ostrich Fern's fronds start to change to their fertile phase. At this stage of their cycle, the frond's brownish sculptural shapes often give the impression that they have been fashioned from metal. Planting combinations with Musa basjoo, Musella lasiocarpa and Colocasia are also very effective.
|Synonyms||Matteuccia pensylvanica, Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica, Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pubescens, Onoclea struthiopteris, Osmunda struthiopteris, Pteretis nodulosa, Pteretis nodulosa f. pubescens, Pteretis pensylvanica, Pteretis pensylvanica f. pubescens, Pteretis struthiopteris, Struthiopteris pensylvanica|
|Geographical Origin||Northern Europe, Northern Asia, Northern America. Naturalised in the UK|
|Cultivation||Cool shady spot with a moist rich soil|
|Eventual Spread||Individual plants to 1m, spreading by stolons to form large colonies|
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