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royal fern

royal fern (Osmunda spectabilis)
Photo © John Hilty

Features and Behaviors

The royal fern is a large plant that can grow to six feet tall. Its leaves are in erect clusters and are divided into six or more pairs of leaflets. Each leaflet is further divided into eight or more pairs of widely-spread, rounded subleaflets. The fertile leaves have light-brown, spore-bearing leaflets at the tip. The yellow or green rachis is thin. The smooth, yellow stipe is nearly round.

The royal fern may be found statewide in Illinois. It grows in swamps, woods and on sandstone ledges. Spores are produced from April through June.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Filicopsida
Order: Polypodiales
Family: Osmundaceae

Illinois Status: common, native