Cinnamon ferns are natives of the Americas, as well as eastern Asia. They date all the way
back to the Paleozoic era, somewhere between 500 million and 250 million years ago—they may
be the oldest living species. Their
longevity is due in part to their prodigious production of spores, estimated at somewhere between
8 and 43 million per plant. Until 2008,
these ferns were known as Osmunda cinnamomea.
Identification: Cinnamon ferns produce sterile fronds
12-59" (30-150 cm) tall and 6-8" (15-20 cm) wide, with opposing leaflets 1¾-4" (5-10 cm)
long and ¾-⅞" (2-2.5 cm) wide. The leaflets are so deeply lobed that the fronds appear to be
bipinnate. These ferns also produce separate fertile fronds 8-18" (20-45 cm) tall, and
it is the light brown color of these fronds that give the fern its common name. As the plant ages,
the fronds darken to brown and almost black. These ferns reproduce by spores as mentioned above,
and also by cloning themselves, forming huge clonal groups.