Virginia Tech Dendrology

sweetfern Myricaceae Comptonia peregrina (L.) J.M. Coult. Listen to the Latin play symbol: COPE80
Leaf: Alternate, simple leaf, linear, 2 to 4 inches long, 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide, coarsely irregularly toothed, tight arrangement on twigs causes them to resemble ferns, dark green above, a bit paler below, very fragrant.
Flower: Species is monoecious; females short rounded catkin with reddish bracts, males elongated, yellow-green catkins in clusters at twig ends, appear in spring.
Fruit: Round, bur-like cluster of ovoid nutlets, brown when mature in late summer.
Twig: Slender, gray-brown, fuzzy; buds round, plump, male catkins present in the winter, resin dots often present.
Bark: Smooth, shiny reddish brown, heavily lenticeled.
Form: A small, densely branched shrub reaching 2 to 4 feet in height, spreads with rhizomes.
leaf flower fruit twig bark form1 map
Additional Range Information: Comptonia peregrina is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting sweetfern.
More Information: Fall Color
External Links: USDAFS Additional Silvics - USDA Plants Database
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson