Comptonia peregrina
Sweetfern
 
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Family: Bayberry Family (Myricaceae)
Native Habitat: Eastern U.S. and Canada
   

Comptonia is an unusual and interesting little shrub that should be used more often in today's landscapes. It even has an interesting common name: Sweetfern. The foliage is delightfully fragrant when crushed, hence "sweet", and the leaves somewhat resemble the fronds of a fern. It is not a true fern.

Native to the eastern U.S. and Canada, it is most often found growing in peaty or sandy soils that are infertile and often dry. One of the reasons it does well in such areas is its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it available for its own nutrition. It does this by forming root nodules that become infected with an Actinomycete fungus which in turn takes up the chore of fixing the nitrogen. The fungus gets a nice home in exchange for making plant food- what a deal!

In the garden it usually grows to only about two ft. tall and slowly spreads by suckers. It looks best when planted in a mass. Strictly a foliage plant, the flowers are small, brown, and inconspicuous. It adapts well and does fine in average garden soil and is especially valuable in hard to use sandy and dry areas.

Ornamental Characteristics: Fragrant fern-like foliage. Flowers are inconspicuous.
Habit & Growth Rate: Slow to medium growth rate. Grows to about 2 or 2 1/2 ft. tall and slowly spreads by underground suckers.
Landscape Uses: Shrub border. Difficult sandy, infertile, dry areas.
Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6.
Culture: Full sun to part shade. Average to well drained peaty or sandy soils. Neutral to acid soil best.