Sweet-fern is a colony-forming, small shrub with wonderfully aromatic fern-like leaves. This shrub is a useful selection in the landscape for erosion control and naturalizing, due to its tolerance of adverse conditions. It is adaptable to poor, infertile soil and is also drought, salt, and heat resistant.
This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
All common names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Mixed border,
- Small shrub (3-5 feet),
- Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 2,
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6
- Acid soil,
- Sandy soil
- Occasional drought,
- Road salt
Seasons of Interest:
- late spring,
- early summer,
- late summer
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size and Form
A rounded, 2 to 4 feet high and 4 to 8 feet wide, possibly larger due to suckering habit.
Tree & Plant Care
Low maintenance, unusual green leaves turn brown in fall and persist most of the winter.
This shrub is drought, salt, and heat resistant.
May be difficult to transplant.
Does not do well in clay soils.
Disease, pests and problems
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Resistant to drought, heat and salt.
Tolerates infertile soils.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native in the Chicago area as well as the upper Midwest and the northeastern United States.
Bark color and texture
Stems green to yellow brown with obvious lenticels.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate, dark green fern-like leaves; narrow and about 2 to 4 inches long.
Leaves are fragrant.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Inconspicuous; small catkins.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Nutlets in a bur-like cluster.