Herbs & Plants

Osmunda regalis

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Botanical Name : Osmunda regalis
Family: Osmundaceae
Genus: Osmunda
Section: Euosmunda
Species: O. regalis
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Polypodiopsida/Pteridopsida (disputed)
Order: Osmundales

Common Name :Royal Fern, Flowering Fern , Old World Royal fern

Habitat :Osmunda regalis is native to Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to N. Africa, Asia, N. and S. America. It grows on the swampy areas, fens and damp woodland.

Description:  Osmunda regalis is a deciduous, herbaceous plant which produces separate fertile and sterile fronds. The sterile fronds are spreading, 60-160 cm tall and 30-40 cm broad, bipinnate, with 7-9 pairs of pinnae up to 30 cm long, each pinna with 7-13 pairs of pinnules 2.5-6.5 cm long and 1-2 cm broad. The fertile fronds are erect and shorter, 20-50 cm tall, usually with 2-3 pairs of sterile pinnae at the base, and 7-14 pairs of fertile pinnae above bearing the densely-clustered sporangia.

The “Royal” name derives from its being one of the largest and most imposing European ferns. In many areas, it has become rare as a result of wetland drainage for agriculture.


Rhizome: erect, massive, forming a trunk, occasionally branching, hairs and old stipe bases woven together with black, fibrous roots.
Frond: 120 cm high by 25 cm wide, though sometimes much taller, deciduous, dimorphic, blade/stipe ratio: 1:1.

Stipe: stipules (flared leaf base), unique to the family/genus, hairy when young, soon glabrous, vascular bundles: 1 in a U-shape where the top of the arms continue to curl.

Blade: 2-pinnate, rachis grooved, somewhat waxy, shedding water, reddish to light brown hairs, soon falling.
Pinnae: 5 to 9 pair, catadromous, often jointed at the rachis, rotated to the horizontal; on fertile fronds usually the two to four lowest pair are sterile; pinnules oblong, to 8 cm, 8-12 pairs plus a terminal pinnule; margins almost entire, the tip of the pinnules serrate; veins free, forked.

Sori: none, indusium: absent, sporangia: large, globose, tan or black when mature, spores green, maturity: early to midsummer.

Dimensionality: horizontal pinnae.

There are three to four varieties as traditionally construed:

*Osmunda regalis var. regalis. Europe, Africa, southwest Asia. Sterile fronds to 160 cm tall.

*Osmunda regalis var. panigrahiana R.D.Dixit. Southern Asia (India).

*Osmunda regalis var. brasiliensis (Hook. & Grev.) Pic. Serm. Tropical regions of Central and South America; treated as a synonym of var. spectabilis by some authors.

*Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis (Willdenow) A.Gray. Eastern North America. Sterile fronds to 100 cm tall.

Cultivation: An easily grown plant, it prefers a soil of swamp mud and loamy or fibrous peat, sand and loam. Succeeds in most moist soils, preferring acid conditions. Requires a constant supply of water, doing well by ponds, streams etc[1]. Plants thrive in full sun so long as there is no shortage of moisture in the soil and also in shady situations beneath shrubs etc. Plants are hardy to at least -20°c, they are evergreen in warm winter areas but deciduous elsewhere. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer. Transplants well, even when quite large. Some named forms have been selected for their ornamental value. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Wetlands plant, There are no flowers or blooms.
Propagation: Spores – they very quickly lose their viability (within 3 days) and are best sown as soon as they are ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil in a lightly shaded place in a greenhouse. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. Plants develop very rapidly, pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and keep humid until they are well established. Do not plant outside until the ferns are at least 2 years old. Cultivars usually come true to type[200]. Division of the rootstock in the dormant season. This is a very strenuous exercise due to the mass of wiry roots

Meditional Uses:
The mucilaginous roots, often boiled in water to produce royal fern jelly, once given to invalids as a nutritious, easily digested food, and also used to treat dysentery, coughs and pulmonary disorders.  The root is useful in the treatment of jaundice and removing obstructions of the viscera.  The fronds are used to make compresses for external application to wounds and rheumatic joints – for which purposes they are fairly effective. An infusion of the fronds, combined with wild ginger roots (Asarum species) has been used in the treatment of children with convulsions caused by intestinal worms.

Other Uses:

Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Ground cover, Rock garden, Specimen, Woodland garden.
UsesThe roots, along with those of other species of Osmunda, are used for the production of osmunda fibre, used as a growing medium for cultivated orchids and other epiphytic plants.

According to Slavic mythology, the sporangia, called “Perun’s flowers“, have assorted magical powers, such as giving their holders the ability to defeat demons, fulfill wishes, unlock secrets, and understand the language of trees. However, collecting the sporangia is a difficult and frightening process. In earlier traditions, they must be collected on Kupala night; later, after the arrival of Christianity, the date is changed to Easter eve. Either way, the person wanting to collect Perun’s flowers must stand within a circle drawn around the plant and withstand the taunting or threats of demons.

Seasoned Royal Fern is also used in the dish Namul in Korean royal court cuisine.

The young shoots of the fern are, along with the similar shoots of many other fern species, known in some places as fiddleheads, and eaten as food, thought to have an asparagus-like taste.

Known Hazards:  Although  it is  found that there is no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase.

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.


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