|Sterile fronds in summer|
Matteuccia struthiopteris (common names ostrich fern or shuttlecock fern) is a crown-forming, colony-forming fern, occurring in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in eastern and northern Europe, northern Asia and northern North America. The species epithet struthiopteris comes from Ancient Greek words, struthio meaning ostrich and pterion meaning wing.
It grows from a completely vertical crown, favoring riverbanks and sandbars, but sends out lateral stolons to form new crowns. It thus can form dense colonies resistant to destruction by floodwaters.
The fronds are dimorphic, with the deciduous green sterile fronds being almost vertical, 100–170 cm (39–67 in) tall and 20–35 cm (7.9–14 in) broad, long-tapering to the base but short-tapering to the tip, so that they resemble ostrich plumes, hence the name. The fertile fronds are shorter, 40–60 cm (16–24 in) long, brown when ripe, with highly modified and constricted leaf tissue curled over the sporangia; they develop in autumn, persist erect over the winter and release the spores in early spring.
Cultivation and uses
The ostrich fern is a popular ornamental plant in gardens. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. While choosing a place of planting it should be taken into account that these ferns are very expansive and its leaves often lose their beauty throughout the summer, especially if not protected from wind and hail. The tightly wound immature fronds, called fiddleheads, are also used as a cooked vegetable, and are considered a delicacy mainly in rural areas of northeastern North America. It is not considered advisable to eat uncooked fiddleheads because illness has been traced to that practise.
The sprouts are also picked all over Japan, ("kogomi" in Japanese) where they are a delicacy.
Matteuccia struthiopteris is the only species in the genus Matteuccia. Some sources include two Asian species, M. orientalis and M. intermedia, but molecular data shows that M. struthiopteris is more closely related to Onocleopsis and Onoclea (sensitive fern) than it is to M. orientalis and M. intermedia, and so the latter should be moved to a genus Pentarhizidium which contains those two species.  Formerly classified as a member of the Dryopteridaceae, Matteuccia has been reassigned to the new much smaller family Onocleaceae.
- Johnson, David M. (1993). Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica. In Flora of North America Editorial Committee. "Flora of North America". Flora of North America North of Mexico 2 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press).
- Elias, Thomas; Dykeman, Peter (1982). Edible Wild Plants. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-4027-6715-9.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Matteuccia struthiopteris". Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- LaPointe, Rick (21 April 2002). "Let us go fiddlehead foragin', but carefully". The Japan Times (Tokyo). Retrieved 13 March 2011.
- Gastony, GJ; Ungerer, MC (1997). "Molecular systematics and a revised taxonomy of the onocleoid ferns (Dryopteridaceae: Onocleeae)". American Journal of Botany 84 (6): 840–849. doi:10.2307/2445820.
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- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Matteuccia struthiopteris
- Hyde, H. A., Wade, A. E., & Harrison, S. G. (1978). Welsh Ferns. National Museum of Wales.