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Matteuccia. The genus Matteuccia is distinct in that the spores are produced on separate fertile fronds, which generally arise later in the year long after the main structure of the fern is established, and are quite different from the growing fronds. They take the form of so called bead sticks being short wrinkled and brown, and can be a marked feature of the fern. They should not however be taken for diseased fronds as they sometimes have been. Matteuccia is only a small genus but it does contain at least two of our best garden ferns.

Matteuccia struthiopteris AGM (D) shuttlecock fern. Hight 80cm or more. Spreading habit. This is one of the world’s favourite ferns, and it is not hard to see why. M. struthiopteris has a superb shape like an upright funnel, with fresh, green, bipinnate fronds, and though it spreads quickly to fill its space it is never offensively invasive, and it is very easy to remove when it goes too far. When mature it has a second ring of fertile fronds in the centre of the others, these are short, stout and curious rather than beautiful. It flourishes best near water, in a moist soil and shade, yet it has grown well for me in dry shade under trees for many years, so it will clearly withstand a wide range of conditions. Some books say that it is not tolerant of lime, but it grows perfectly in my chalk soil.