About the Sensitive Fern
The Sensitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis, is a
large, somewhat coarse deciduous fern which occurs
in wet woods and thickets and in moist soils along
streams and springs. Sensitive Ferns can grow up to
4' tall. It features long-stalked, deeply pinnatifid,
bright green, vegetative (sterile) fronds (2-4'
long) with leathery, triangular leaflets (pinnae)
which have distinctively netted veins. Some shorter,
erect, woody-like fertile fronds (to 12" tall),
typically brown up in late summer and persist
throughout the remaining season and winter. It is
commonly called sensitive fern because the green
vegetative fronds are sensitive to and suffer almost
immediate damage from the first fall frost.
This deciduous perennial fern is also sensitive
to drought. It performs best in wet woodland gardens
and moist locations along streams and ponds. Also
appropriate for shaded areas of a native plant
garden or naturalized planting. The foliage may
depreciate as summer progresses in hot climates,
particularly if soils are not kept moist. It is best
not to remove dead fronds until spring, because they
provide protection for the crowns over the winter.