The Hay-scented Fern, or Dennestaedtia punctilobula, may look like a tender beauty, but is in reality a tough-as-leather, marauding native that even deer will avoid eating. Named for the smell of fresh cut grass created by its crushed foliage, the Hay-scented Fern is a fast spreading groundcover that puts out a thick mat of vibrant green fronds, which turn a soft yellow color in autumn. The individual plants grow 10 – 18 inches tall and are rampant spreaders, so only plant it where it will not swamp out “weaker” growing plants. Hay-scented Fern is drought tolerant, and can even grow in full sun, though they will go dormant if they dry out in such conditions. This is a great native that we are planning to use in tough sites here in Riverside Park, but we do so with care. Many studies show that the plant can behave as an invasive would in a natural forest by inhibiting the growth of tree seedlings. Therefore, we thoughtfully restrict our use of this plant to sites that can keep this enthusiastic fern in check…like drier and sunnier areas of the Park.
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