Comptonia peregrina

Botanical Name : Comptonia peregrina
Family: Myricaceae
Genus: Comptonia
Species: C. peregrina
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales

Common Name : Canadian Sweetgale,Sweetfern or Sweet-fern ( a confusing name as it is not a fern)

Habitat : It is native to eastern North America, from southern Quebec south to the extreme north of Georgia, and west to Minnesota.Yhe plant is typically found on gravelly soils along road cuts

Description:
It is a deciduous shrub, growing to 2′ to 4′ tall with a spread twice the height .It is a spreading, colonizing plant  with stems  slender and upright. The leaves of the plant are linear to lanceolate, 3-15 cm long and 0.3-3 cm broad, with a modified dentate, pinnately lobed margin; they give off a sweet odor, especially when crushed. The flowers are imperfect, meaning that no one flower has both gender parts. It tends to grow on dry sandy sites, and is associated with pine stands.

CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
Fruit is a cluster of small nutlets and not ornamentally significant. Bark is old stems are on interesting copper or purplish color and stems are shiny or with resin dots

Comptonia peregrina is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Bucculatrix paroptila, Grey Pug, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Io moth, and several Coleophora case-bearers: C. comptoniella, C. peregrinaevorella (which feeds exclusively on Comptonia), C. persimplexella, C. pruniella and C. serratella. It is also a non-legume nitrogen fixer.

Several fossil species, such as Comptonia colombiana have been described, showing that the genus once had a much wider distribution throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Cultivation :
Landscape Uses:Arbor, Border, Container, Erosion control, Foundation, Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen. Requires a peaty or light loam lime-free soil. Requires an acid well-drained soil of low to medium fertility in partial shade but tolerates full sun if the soil does not dry out in the summer. Tolerates dry sandy soils when grown in the shade. A very ornamental plant, it is hardy to at least -25°c. The crushed leaves are very aromatic, their scent is most noticeable in the early morning and the evening. The scent increases when the leaves are dried. This species is somewhat intolerant of root disturbance and should be planted out into its permanent position whilst small. Suckering freely, this plant is well suited to clothing banks on soils of low fertility. It has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. Special Features:North American native, Fragrant foliage, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

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Propagation :
Seed – it has a very tough seed coat and also contains germination inhibitors and so is very difficult to germinate. It is probably best to harvest the seed ‘green’ (after the seed has fully developed but before it dries on the plant) and sow immediately in a cold frame. If the seed has been stored then soaking in hot water for 24 hours will leach out some of the inhibitors and also help to soften the seed coat. Scarification will also help as will a period of cold stratification. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Root cuttings, 4cm long December in a frame. Plant the root horizontally. High percentage. Suckers removed in the dormant season and potted up or planted into their permanent positions. Plants can be difficult to move successfully. Layering in spring

Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.

The young fruits are eaten as a pleasant nibble. The aromatic leaves, fresh or dried, are used to make a palatable tea. The leaves are also used as a seasoning.

Medicinal Uses:
Sweet fern was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it especially as a poultice to treat a variety of complaints. It is still used for most of the same purposes in modern herbalism. The leaves are astringent, blood purifier, expectorant and tonic. The leaves were boiled by Indians to make a poultice that was tied to the cheek to relieve toothache.  A decoction of the plant was used to treat diarrhea, rheumatism, colic, and weakness following fever.  A tea made from the leaves and flowering tops is used as a remedy for diarrhea, headache, fevers, catarrh, vomiting of blood, rheumatism etc. The infusion has also been used to treat ringworm. The leaves have also been used as a poultice for toothaches, sprains etc.  A cold water infusion of the leaves has been used externally to counter the effect of poison ivy and to bathe stings, minor hemorrhages etc.  The leaves are harvested in early summer and dried for later use.

Other Uses:
Incense; Lining; Parasiticide; Repellent.

The leaves are used as a lining in baskets etc in order to preserve the fruit. The crushed leaves repel insects. They can be thrown onto a camp fire to keep mosquitoes away. The dried leaves have been burnt as an incense

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comptonia
http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/c/comper/comper1.html
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Comptonia+peregrina

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