Royal Fern

Royal fern with fertile and infertile fronds
Anthony Brown/USFWS

Royal fern loves shady, moist environments and this location is a perfect fit. Its scientific name is Osmunda regalis, although some genetic tests suggest that this North American specimen is not the same as its European counterpart. Its genus name, Osmunda, is believed to be derived from Osmunder, the Saxon name given to the Norse God Thor who, according to legend, hid his family from danger in these ferns. The species name regalis is from Latin, meaning royal. Depending on the time of year, you may notice two separate types of frond on this fern. The fertile fronds have clusters of sporangia which release spores and turn rusty-brown once the spores have been dispersed. The sterile fronds are composed of alternating pinnae, which are leaflets.