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Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteri) are native to North America (hardy to USDA zone 3) ranging across Canada and south to Indiana, Ohio, and Virginia. As members of the floodplain forest community, they are typically found growing under box-elders and silver maples, forming large thickets. Growing to a height of 2 to 5 feet, the graceful arching fronds grow in a symmetrical vase-shaped clump with a denser, more rigid fertile frond in the center. Although classified as a deciduous plant, the fronds often persist into winter. Ostrich ferns prefer rich well-drained soils similar to the floodplains that they thrive in along rivers and streams. They partial to full shade, making them an ideal understory plant in a woodland garden or any place where the soil remains moist. As with most ferns, they reproduce in using two methods, spores and more typically rhizomes. Under optimal growing conditions they may take over the garden, which is why they are often used in foundation plantings and for massing. Ostrich ferns will also dwarf more delicate plants, so it’s advisable to keep some distance between them. Early spring or fall is the best time to transplant ostrich ferns, and despite the fact that they are the most common garden fern, they may need to be special ordered from a native plant nursery. The common name, ostrich fern, is derived from the fronds’ similarity in appearance to ostrich feathers. The fiddleheads are considered a delicacy, which are eaten in early spring, are the state vegetable of Vermont.