Royal fern is a large and dramatic fern that grows from a stout rhizome which creeps along the ground, then ascends like a stump to give rise to a crownlike tussock of light green leaves. The rootstock, with its mass of wiry black fibers, can be as much as 12 in (30.5 cm) above the soil line in really large specimens. Most kinds of ferns bear their reproductive spores on the underside of their leaves, but the osmunda ferns have their spores in clusters on specialized fronds. Osmunda regalis has two kinds of fronds: sterile and fertile. Both types are twice divided: the leaflets (pinnae) are divided again into pinnules that are quite large, nearly 2 in (5.1 cm) long. The whole leaf can be up to 6 ft (1.8 m) long, and looks more like some kind of mimosa, locust or acacia than a typical fern. The fertile fronds lack leafy pinnae towards their apex, which is instead covered with attractive clusters of brown sporangia which bear the spores.
Hardiness: Zones 3-10
Plant Use: Fern
Exposure: Partial to Full Shade
Water Requirements: Royal fern likes a moist, somewhat water retentive soil.
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