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Comptonia peregrina (L.) J.M. Coult.


KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderFagalesBirch, she-oak, beech, walnut, bayberry, others
FamilyMyricaceaeBayberry (sweet gale) family
GenusComptoniaAfter Henry Compton, Bishop of London from 1632-1713, by Sir Josiah Banks
SpeciesperegrinaForeign or exotic, wandering or straggling in growth

About plant names...

Sweetfern is literally in a class by itself, being the only member of genus Comptonia. (The genus is named from Henry Compton, bishop of London from 1632-1713.) Sweetfern is native to eastern North America. Although its foliage is fern-like, it is not actually a fern. Ferns don't flower, and sweetfern does. The common name refers to the odor of its foliage, not its flowers. The odor is stronger when the leaves are crushed.

Identification: Plants are up to 5' (1.5 m) tall. Stems are woody and strong, red-brown to gray. Leaves are long and narrow—1-6" (3-15 cm) × ⅛-1" (3-30 mm). They are somewhat fernlike in appearance, but on close inspection, the long narrow leaves are not symmetrical like those of ferns. Flowers are inconspicuous light brown catkins at branch ends, 1¼-1¾" (3.2-4.4 cm) long. Seeds resemble burrs, with four to each fruit.

Online References:


Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants


The University of Connecticut Plant Database

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database



Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

8/12/2009 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 24 × 16" (62 × 41 cm)

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

A touch of frost. · 11/19/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, East Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm)

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

5/13/2016 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

8/6/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 17 × 12" (44 × 29 cm)

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

6/22/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Ayer, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 6 × 4½" (15 × 11 cm)

Liquidambar aspleniifolia (L.) L.

Liquidambar peregrina L.

Comptonia peregrina (L.) J.M. Coult. var. aspleniifolia (L.) Fernald

Myrica aspleniifolia L.

Myrica aspleniifolia L. var. tomentosa (A. Chev) Gleason

Myrica peregrina (L.) Kuntze


Comptonia peregrina description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 14 Aug 2021.

© FloraFinder.org. All rights reserved.


Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

6/27/2012 · Townsend Wildlife Management Area, Townsend, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 4½ × 3" (11 × 7.9 cm)

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

6/12/2010 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

8/7/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 18 × 14" (45 × 34 cm)

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

4/14/2013 · Bemis Rd, Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 4½ × 3" (12 × 8.3 cm)

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

8/4/2009 · Near Nashoba Hospital, Ayer, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 33 × 26" (83 × 65 cm)

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

7/3/2005 · Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

8/29/2015 · Mount Grace, Athol, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 9 × 6" (22 × 15 cm)

Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern)

9/23/2017 · Summit of Mt. Agamenticus, York, Maine
≈ 4 × 2½" (10 × 7 cm)


About this map...