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Sensitive Fern
Onoclea sensibilis

This distinctive fern has broad, green fronds and separate brown, fertile fronds that are attractive year-round. It forms large patches and a mass of pale red fiddle-heads forms in the spring. Sensitive fern is a good ground cover in wet to inundated areas of partial sun or less. It will work well in rain water gardens that do not dry out completely. A good wetland restoration plant for shrubby or wet meadow areas, especially in calcareous conditions.

USDA symbol: ONSE

General Information

Plant TypeFern
Height2 to 4 feet
Light ExposurePart Sun, Shade
Soil MoistureMedium
Bloom ColorGreen
Sensitive Fern (Sensitive Fern<div><em class="small">Onoclea sensibilis</em></div>)
Photo credit: United States Department of Agriculture (Click to enlarge)


Flooding / Inundation ToleranceHigh
General Resilience6
Salt ToleranceLow
Stress ToleranceGeneral Disturbance

Pollinator Value: Low

Bloom MonthsMay to October

Project Planning

Project TypeRain Garden, Restoration, Sandy or Engineered Soils, Shoreline Buffer
Coefficient of Conservatism6
Herbivore SensitivityLow
Rate of SpreadMedium
Soil StabilizationShallow
Vegetative ReproductionClonal


CountyAitkin, Anoka, Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Blue Earth, Brown, Carlton, Carver, Cass, Chisago, Clay, Clearwater, Cook, Cottonwood, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Kandiyohi, Koochiching, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, Mahnomen, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Polk, Pope, Ramsey, Red Lake, Rice, Roseau, Sherburne, St. Louis, Stearns, Steele, Todd, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Winona, Wright
EcoregionDriftless Area, Lake Agassiz Plain, North Central Hardwood Forests, Northern Glaciated Plains, Northern Lakes and Forests, Northern Minnesota Wetlands, Western Cornbelt Plains
Approximate Eco ProvinceEastern Broadleaf Forest, Laurentian Mixed Forest, Prairie Parkland, Tallgrass Aspen Parklands