What Is A Marsh Fern?
A marsh fern (Pteridium aquaticum) is a member of the mint family. They are small, greenish-brown plants with short stems and leaves. Their flowers are white or pinkish purple.
Marsh ferns are native to North America from New England southward along the Atlantic coast. They have been introduced into other parts of the world including Asia, Africa, Australia and South America. There are several species of marsh fern. Most commonly known as “marsh” ferns they grow in moist soil or water but some species grow in dry ground such as sand dunes or even salt marshes.
The name “marsh” comes from the fact that these plants are often found growing near streams and lakes. These plants usually grow in dense colonies which may reach up to two feet high. Some species of marsh fern produce tiny seeds called nits. When disturbed, these seeds release spores that germinate when exposed to moisture.
These spore-bearing spores then develop into new plantlets within a few days after being disturbed.
The marsh fern has been used by Native Americans as a food source, and for employing medicinal purposes. The Iroquois made a tea from the roots of the plant to promote menstruation, induce labor in pregnant women and treat venereal disease including gonorrhea. The Chippewa were known to chew on the root of the marsh fern plant to relieve toothaches.
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