Sensitive fern

Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated February 2018.

Scientific name: Onoclea sensibilis L.

Common name(s): sensitive fern, bead fern, sympathy fern

Links: USDA PLANTS Profile, NPIN Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)


– may be confused with the vegetative fronds of Woodwardia areolata; see left sidebar of Go Botany webpage

– deciduous fern

-spreads by rhizomes and spores

-spores are not released until the next spring after the fronds are produced


-Rich, well drained, moist soils

-meadows and fields

-shores of rivers


Natural History:

-its name comes form its sensitivity to frost



Go Botany. “Onoclea Sensibilis L.” Onoclea Sensibilis (Sensitive Fern): Go Botany, 2021,