Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Royal Fern - Osmunda spectabilis   Willdenow
Members of Osmundaceae:
Members of Osmunda with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 2 » Family Osmundaceae
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DistributionPresent statewide, with only a few counties lacking collections.

This is a widespread Eastern species, ranging from eastern Canada to Manitoba, south to TX and Fl. Also through much of Latin America.
AbundanceFrequent to common throughout the state.
HabitatThis species occurs in many wetland habitats, sunny to shady. It grows in bottomlands, swamp openings, marshes, bogs, and wooded pool margins, among other places.
PhenologyFruits from March to June.
IdentificationThis is one of the more stately and easily identified ferns in the state, familiar even to the layperson. The stem grows to about 4 feet tall, with dimorphic leaves on the same plant. The several lower leaves are sterile and 2-pinnate. Each one is about 1.5 feet long on average. Each pinna has numerous pinnules, with the ultimate segments oblong, rounded at the tip, about 1 inch long and 1/4-inch wide, and entire. The top of the stem contains the fertile leaves, brown in color, strongly ascending into a conical form, about 10-12 inches tall. The entire plant is fan-shaped, with twice-cut leaves that have finger-like ultimate segments, topped by the "spire" of fertile pinnae.
Taxonomic CommentsThe species has usually been named as Osmunda regalis, and still is by some references. Basically, the Eurasian O. regalis has been split, with the eastern North American taxon -- formerly named as O. regalis var. spectabilis -- now considered as a good species without any varieties.

Other Common Name(s)American Royal Fern
State RankS5
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
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USACE-empOBL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieScuppernong River swamp, 2012. TyrrellPhoto_natural
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