Why are ferns unique? They are part of a group of species of vascular plants which reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. However, they have stems and leaves. The fiddleheads which first emerge expand into the delicate fronds we all know and recognize.
Fiddleheads are the young, tightly-coiled leaves of the ostrich fern. Although all types of ferns technically have fiddleheads, only those from the ostrich fern are safe for consumption. They are considered a delicacy in areas where the ostrich fern grows natively and are identified by the papery brown scales that cover their coils. Only those who can properly identify the ostrich fern should consider cooking them for consumption.
It’s believed the first ferns appeared in fossil records 360 million years ago in the Devonian period, but many of the current species didn’t appear until roughly 145 million years ago in the early Cretaceous period, after flowering plants came to dominate many environments. Throughout history, ferns have been popular in medicine, art, mythology, landscaping, flower design and more.
With over 900 members, The American Fern Society is one of the largest international fern clubs in the world. It was established in 1893 with the objective of fostering interest in ferns and fern allies.