The Royal Fern, or Osmunda regalis, is a deciduous plant that grows best in wetlands with partial or full shade. Despite its nickname as a flowering fern, it features no blooms, and is not fragrant. It is known for being one of the largest ferns to come out of Europe, and tends to spread out easily, so care must be taken to space these ferns out if planting more than one. The shoots of the Royal Fern are considered edible in some areas, and the roots of this plant are often used to help orchids and similar plants grow.
Most people grow this plant when they want lots of green foliage, as the leaves are lush and spread quite easily. It can grow up to six feet (1.8 m) tall, and should be spaced about that far apart from other ferns due to the size of the leaves. The best place to grow the Royal Fern is in highly acidic soil that stays moist, with at least partial shade. Despite the fact that it thrives in moist soil, its water needs are average, and it should not be overwatered. This plant is considered intolerant to drought, and does not typically survive when the temperature is below -38°F (-39°C).
This plant is considered a perennial, and tends to grow fast in every season except winter, as it does not do particularly well with frost. The Royal Fern is known for its long life, as well as its tendency to grow and spread quite easily, usually reaching its full height within 20 years. The fronds are long and spear-shaped, and planting several Royal Ferns together can provide plenty of privacy.
Some people pluck the young shoots of the Royal Fern, and then cook and eat them. They are referred to as fiddleheads, and are said to taste like asparagus, making them popular to add to various dishes around the world. Recent studies have shown that fiddleheads have more antioxidants than blueberries do, which makes them rather healthy to consume as long as they are fully cooked.
Additionally, the Royal Fern's roots are often used to make osmunda fiber. This is a potting medium, which is used to help grow orchids and similar plants that call for lots of circulation of air near their roots. It is popular because it does not break down over time, but it should be noted that it does need to be moistened before being used to help cultivate orchids and other plants.