Hay-Scented Fern - The Smell of Hay Without the Hay Fever

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If you have ever crushed the fronds of this plant, you will smell the fragrance of freshly mowed hay that emits from them. Just the aroma can make one think upon country living, haystacks and hay rides, but it is this very fragrance that gives this fern its name. The Hay-Scented Fern [Dennstaedtia punctilobula] is a native species with lacy, light-green fronds that grows in large colonies, especially in forests dominated by maple or cherry trees, cloaking the area with their beauty. The genus Dennstaedtia was named after the German botanist August Wilhelm Dennstedt (1776 � 1826). The species name means �finely pointed lobes�, which refers to the delicately toothed margins of the leaf pinnules.

It is a deciduous plant that grows in woods and open woods and is native to the eastern United States and Canada. This fern can be invasive in some forest understories, partly because deer do not eat hay-scented fern. When the deer eat the shrub and herbaceous plants they do desire, like hobblebush or raspberry, it can prevent germination of other species, leaving room for the hay-scented fern to grow denser and become more invasive. The browsing of ferns is avoided by deer because of an enzyme in the foliage that hinders the deer�s ability to absorb nutrition. If you are having any trouble with invasion, the experts at your local nursery or garden supply center can advise you. It can be treated chemically or non-chemically. Mowing in June, after the full expansion of the fern fronds, and again in August, for two consecutive years, will significantly reduce the height and density of the ferns and allow increased light. Mowing will not eliminate the ferns from your woods, but it may control them so that other species can have time to establish themselves. Two other methods, although somewhat speculative, include liming and mulching. (ref: USDA Forest Service, NY Northeastern Area State & Privacy Forestry and the NY Forest Owners Association). The pulling out of excess rhizomes will help also.

The fronds of this particular fern develop in patches, rather than individual clumps. Finely cut pinnacles form fronds with a pyramidal outline. The fronds are long, erect to arching, lance-shaped, oval-oblate fronds that are usually widest at the base; hairy, thin in texture and yellow-green, growing from 20 � 32 inches long and 11 inches wide. The stipe is between � - 1/3 the length of the frond. It is brown to a bright red in color, with the feathery fronds turning to soft yellow or reddish gold in the fall. The long-creeping, straight, underground stems (rhizomes) are 0.7 � 0.11 inches in diameter. The fronds are clustered or scattered along the rhizome.

The Hay-scented fern is easy to cultivate. It spreads rapidly when planted in light shade to part sun; is medium drought tolerant and tolerates salt spray.

The Hay-scented fern is a superb groundcover, but make sure you plant it where it will be allowed to spread freely. This fern does well on northern slopes and is most effective for erosion control.

Gardening Articles: http://organicgardenarticles.com/

Author: Tammy Sons
www.tennesseewholesalenursery.com

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