The Ostrich Fern, or Fiddlehead Fern, is one of our wild delicacies. Cree (Algonquian) used a decoction of sterile leaf stalk base for expulsion of afterbirth and for back pain. Menomini used as a poultice and as an infusion for whitish urine. Ostrich Fern, therefore, seems to be parturient, analgesic, and diuretic, with an affinity to the reproductive and urinary systems. Perhaps kidney tonic, as the kidneys rule the back, reproductive system, and urinary system in Chinese medicine. The coiled shape signifies a kidney medicine. Natives considered the unfurling of the fronds to signify the medicinal actions of unfurling the congested energy of pain. Of course, as a springtime green vegetable, much of the medicine is simply in eating it for food to rejuvenate the body and mind.
Distinctive sterile fronds are large (20 – 50 inches long, 10 inches wide) and oblong, tapering toward base, and arising from clump. Fertile fronds are light green when young, becoming dark brown, and persisting though winter. Sterile blades pinnate-pinnatafid.
They are not as common in our area as in some, being mostly found along rivers and similar locations. Often people see Cinnamon Fern or others as fiddleheads and assume they are edible. Every once in a while someone attending a walk will exclaim that they tried fiddleheads and found them bitter, to which I ask if they had the light cinnamon brown fuzz of Cinnamon Fern, which is of similar stature and most likely what they ate.