Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis

The Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis), is a species of Osmunda, native to Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, growing in woodland bogs. The species is sometimes known as flowering fern due to the appearance of its fertile fronds. The name derives from its being one of the largest and most imposing European ferns. In many areas, it has become rare as a result of wetland drainage for agriculture.

It is a deciduous herbaceous plant which produces separate fertile and sterile fronds. The sterile fronds are spreading, 24 to 63 inches tall and 12 to 15.75 inches broad, bipinnate, with 7-9 pairs of pinnae up to 12 inches long. The fertile fronds are erect and shorter, usually with 2-3 pairs of sterile pinnae at the base, and 7-14 pairs of fertile pinnae above bearing the densely-clustered sporangia.

According to Slavic mythology, the sporangia, called “Perun’s flowers”, have assorted magical powers, such as giving their holders the ability to defeat demons, fulfill wishes, unlock secrets, and understand the language of trees. However, collecting the sporangia is a difficult and frightening process. In earlier traditions, they must be collected on Kupala night. Later, after the arrival of Christianity, the date is changed to Easter eve. Either way, the person wanting to collect Perun’s flowers must stand within a circle drawn around the plant and withstand the taunting or threats of demons.

The roots, along with those of other species of Osmunda, are used for the production of osmunda fiber, used as a growing medium for cultivated orchids and other epiphytic plants. Seasoned Royal Fern is also used in the dish Namul in Korean royal court cuisine.

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