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15 Trees with Fern-Like Leaves: Identification and Pictures

15 Trees with Fern-Like Leaves: Identification and Pictures

Ferns leaves or “fronds” have a recognizable central vein with several smaller segments, also called “leaflets”, on each side. They’re liked for adding a tropical feel to your landscaping.

If you’re looking for trees with fern-like leaves, here’s a list complete with their unique characteristics and photos.

What are fern-like leaves?

What are fern-like leaves?
Image: Stephy Miehle on Unsplash

Ferns come from the class Polypodiopsida, which is distinguishable for its type of leaf, called frond.

Fronds are classified as compound leaves, which mean that from a central stalk or vein, they’re branched into smaller segments referred to as leaflets.

In essence, fronds have a feather-like appearance with a main stem in the middle of the structure and several smaller leaflets branched out.

Given that there are over 10,000 types of fern plants out there, the leaf’s size, shape, texture, and pattern may vary depending on the species.

Trees with fern-like leaves

1. Jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia)

Jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia)
Image: Encyclopedia Britannica
Scientific NameJacaranda mimosifolia
Common Name(s)Jacaranda treeBoxwood treeCancer treePurple panicBlack pouiExam tree
NativitySouth America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Yes
Unique CharacteristicsVibrant, violet, bell-shaped flowersBranches are usually arched and widespread, embodying a canopy-like shapeGreen, fern-like leaves

The jacaranda plant is a flowering tree native to South America. It’s easily found in Bolivia and Argentina along with other countries with warm climate conditions.

They’re a popular ornamental plant because of their exotic appearance. During the spring and early summer, they produce vibrant violet, bell-shaped flowers that can bloom for a little over 2 months.

Jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia)
Image: Gardeners World

They have tropical-looking foliage with green, fern-like leaves that reach lengths of about 20 inches. However, they tend to shed their leaves quite often, which could be an inconvenience to manage.

The jacaranda tree loves sunlight, requiring roughly 6 to 8 hours daily. Other than moderate watering and fertilizing every now and then, they’re  pretty low-maintenance in terms of tree care.

Jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia)
Image: CABI Digital Library

In the right growing conditions, the jacaranda plant will only take about a year to reach 10 feet in height. When fully mature, they can grow to a whopping 40 to 60 feet tall.

Its branches are usually arched and widespread, embodying a canopy-like shape. They have a brownish, woody trunk and tend to grow surface roots.

Hence, having a tree this large will require an ample amount of space. It’s also important that they aren’t planted near driveways and pipes so as not to damage infrastructure.

Jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia)
Image: Fast Growing Trees

Nevertheless, they’re still well-liked for their beauty and the adequate shade that they provide. Hence, they’re often planted in communal gardens, parks, and fields.

Even then, they’re considered invasive species in South Africa and Australia where they tend to aggressively hog nutrients and space from native flora.

The jacaranda tree is also classed as poisonous as its flowers contain arabinogalactan. It’s known to cause vomiting, dilated pupils, and diarrhea, among others, when ingested.

2. Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia)

Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia)
Image: Encyclopedia Britannica
Scientific NameDelonix regia
Common Name(s)Flamboyant treeFlame treePeacock tree
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Yes
Unique CharacteristicsDark green, fern-like leaves with 20 to 40 pairs of oval-shaped leafletsBright yellow-orange-red, tropical-looking flowers

Did you know that the royal poinciana is actually an endangered tree species in the wild? Thankfully, mass reproduction for ornamental use has proven to help prevent it from disappearing.

The royal poinciana actually goes by quite a few names, like “flame tree” and “peacock tree”. This is attributed to its bright yellow-orange-red, tropical-looking flowers.

It’s important to keep in mind that it usually takes about 5 years before it will begin to produce flowers. In some cases, it may even take as long as 10 years, so you may want to pack some patience.

Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia)
Image: Reforestation and the Medicinal Uses of Trees

Its blooms are complemented by dark green, fern-like leaves that densely cover the crown of the tree. Within a single leaf, there are about 20 to 40 pairs of oval-shaped leaflets.

Since its canopy can reach about 40 to 60 feet, it’s also popularly used for its wide shade coverage, hence it’s often planted in public parks and spaces.

A mature royal poinciana can reach heights of about 40 feet, especially in environments where it receives full sun coverage.

Having said that, you may want to measure out the landscape where you intend to plant it so as to give it enough room to grow freely without any obstructive infrastructure such as pipes or walkways.

Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia)
Image: Nabat Delivery

Despite being an evergreen plant, the royal poinciana sheds its leaves as the weather begins to cool or during drought periods. Hence, it will require a bit of upkeep during shedding season.

Aside from that, it’ll require regular pruning to ensure that its branches develop properly enough to support itself well. It’ll also need a fertilizing schedule, specifically in the fall and spring.

3. Japanese Fern Tree (Filicium Decipiens)

Japanese Fern Tree (Filicium Decipiens)
Image: IPlantz
Scientific NameFilicium decipiens
Common Name(s)Thika palmPihimbiya
NativityEast AfricaSouth Asia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsThin trunk with an oval-shaped crownBright green, fern-like leaves and bushy, dense foliageSmall, white flowers that eventually turn purple

Although commonly referred to as the “Japanese fern”, it actually doesn’t originate from Japan, neither is it a fern. It’s actually native to East Africa and South Asia where it’s known as the “Thika palm”.

They’re small to medium-sized trees that only grow around 1 foot annually in the right growing conditions. When mature, they can reach about 20 to 60 feet tall and as big as 65 feet in its native habitat.

Japanese Fern Tree (Filicium Decipiens)
Image: ArtisTree Landscape

Having mentioned that, thika palm plants favor tropical climates with humid environments. In fact, they require about 8 hours of full sunlight each day.

In loose clusters, they annually produce small, white flowers that eventually turn purple once matured which can then be eaten. If left alone, their flowers will turn into little, violet, inedible berries.

Japanese Fern Tree (Filicium Decipiens)
Image: GFL Outdoors

They’re well-liked ornamental plants because of their bushy, dense foliage. With the right pruning, they bring an exotic ambiance to any landscape thanks to their bright green and glossy, fern-like leaves.

What’s great about these trees is that they don’t require a lot of space. Unlike other trees, the thika palm plant’s trunk is quite thin with an oval-shaped crown, which makes them compact enough to add to backyards.

Japanese Fern Tree (Filicium Decipiens)
Image: Monaco Nature Encyclopedia

To add, they’re relatively easy to care for, which makes them all the more appealing for landscape use. Just ensure to water regularly and fertilize at least thrice a year with a slow-release fertilizer.

Do note that they’re naturally slow-growing. Hence, don’t be surprised if it may take a while before they reach a large size.

Nevertheless, this also means that they don’t require heavy trimming as they’re known to be great providers of shade, especially in the summertime.

4. Velvet Mesquite Tree (Prosopis Velutina)

Velvet Mesquite Tree (Prosopis Velutina)
Image: Arizona Daily Independent
Scientific NameProsopis Velutina
Common Name(s)Velvet mesquiteVelvet mosquito tree
NativityNorth AmericaMexico
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Yes
Unique CharacteristicsBark changes from a reddish brown to a darker brown shade with maturityShort, fern-like leaves with oval-shaped leaflets that are covered in small, fine hairsYellow leaves are produced in cylindrical clusters

Indigenous to the deserts of North America and Mexico, the velvet mesquite tree is widely classified as a noxious weed in many states across America. 

This is primarily because of its fast-paced growth rate, which results in aggressive competition with native flora and local crops.

As a small to medium-sized tree, the velvet mesquite grows to about 30 to 50 feet tall. It’s known to have deep roots, which makes it a tad difficult to uproot once it has established itself in the soil.

As it matures, the color of its bark changes from a reddish-brown to a darker brown shade. Apart from that, its thorns that are prevalent when young get replaced with a more shredded texture.

Velvet Mesquite Tree (Prosopis Velutina)
Image: DesertUSA

It has short, fern-like leaves that only grow to about 3 to 5 inches long. They’re also quite closely-spaced and are engulfed in small, fine hairs with small, oval-shaped leaflets. 

A unique characteristic about the leaves of the velvet mesquite tree is that they sometimes close or fold in the evenings.

Velvet Mesquite Tree (Prosopis Velutina)
Image: Feedipedia

In either spring or summer, yellow leaves are produced in cylindrical clusters that are about 10 centimeters long. 

After a while, they metamorphose into long, green seed pods, providing a natural food source for various wildlife.

5. Fern-Leaved Wattle (Acacia Filicifolia)

Fern-Leaved Wattle (Acacia Filicifolia)
Image: iNaturalist
Scientific NameAcacia filicifolia
Common Name(s)Fern-leaved wattleCootamundra wattleGolden mimosaBailey’s acaciaBailey’s wattle
NativityEastern Australia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Yes
Unique CharacteristicsFern-like, bipinnate leaves that are oblong to linear-shapedDark gray or brown-colored bark and similarly colored, cylindrical branches with longitudinal ridgesSmall, bright yellow flowers positioned in a panicle

Native to Eastern Australia, the fern-leaved wattle is actually a part of the legume family, Fabaceae. 

Whether it’s considered a tree or a shrub is up for discussion depending on where you’re from. This is because it resembles a shrub during its early stages of life then takes the form of a tree once it reaches maturity.

Fern-Leaved Wattle (Acacia Filicifolia)
Image: Lucid Apps

They grow anywhere from 10 to 50 feet tall depending on its growing conditions. While it’s known to grow quickly, it doesn’t have a long lifespan, usually living only to about 25 years.

The fern-leaved wattle has either a dark gray or brown-colored bark and similarly colored, cylindrical branches with longitudinal ridges.  

Fern-Leaved Wattle (Acacia Filicifolia)
Image: iNaturalist

As its name suggests, the fern-leaved wattle has fern-like, bipinnate leaves that are oblong to linear-shaped. Each leaflet is spaced closely together, somewhat taking on a feather-like appearance.

Fern-Leaved Wattle (Acacia Filicifolia)
Image: iNaturalist

Come spring or late autumn, bright yellow flowers begin to make an appearance and are usually positioned in a panicle. A single head has about 15 to 30 of these small flowers.

After a while, they transform into dark brown pods called “legumes” that grow anywhere from 1 to 5 inches long.

As far as maintenance is concerned, the fern-leaved wattle requires moderate care. They’re considered half-hardy and prefer full sun while only needing moderate watering.

6. Honey Locust (Gleditsia Triacanthos)

Honey Locust (Gleditsia Triacanthos)
Image: Feedipedia
Scientific NameGleditsia triacanthos
Common Name(s)Honey locustThorny locust
NativityCentral North America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsFern-like leaves with small, vibrant green, oval-shaped leafletsSeed pots, also called legumes, that grow to about 15 to 20 centimeters longSharp thorns growing from the base of its trunk upwards to its branches

While the honey locust tree is native to Central North America, it can easily be spotted in various parts of the world. 

Firstly, it’s well-liked for being fast-growing trees. In the right growing conditions, it can reach heights of about 66 to 98 feet tall. They’re also known to have medium-to-long lifespan, averaging about 120 years.

Hence, they’ll need quite a lot of space to ensure that they don’t disrupt any infrastructure such as pipes and sidewalks.

Honey Locust (Gleditsia Triacanthos)
Image: Fast Growing Trees

Apart from that, they’re low-maintenance plants that require minimal attention. Being highly adaptable, they are known to be able to withstand extreme conditions. 

They prefer areas that receive a lot of sun and are known to be quite drought tolerant. They aren’t very picky about their soil type either, known to be able to recover quickly after transplanting.

Honey Locust (Gleditsia Triacanthos)
Image: Kidadl

Other than that, the honey locust tree is a crowd favorite because of its dense foliage, which makes it a popular choice for ornamental and landscaping use because of its great shading capabilities.

It has fern-like leaves with small, vibrant green, oval-shaped leaflets that are about ½ to 1 inch long. They initially grow bipinnately, gradually growing pinnately compound as the tree matures.

They also have edible seed pots, also called legumes, that grow to about 15 to 20 centimeters long. These act as a natural food source for surrounding wildlife. 

However, this has resulted in its seeds being easily dispersible, costing the honey locust tree being classified as an invasive species in several locations worldwide.

Honey Locust (Gleditsia Triacanthos)
Image: Encyclopedia Britannica

They’re also easily distinguishable for having a great deal of sharp thorns growing from the base of its trunk upwards to its branches. Since these grow grow up to 6 inches long, they act as a defense mechanism against 

However, there has been a rise of thornless and podless varieties in recent years. These variations are often used for commercial use.

7. Copperpod (Peltophorum pterocarpum)

Copperpod (Peltophorum pterocarpum)
Image: Gabbar Farms
Scientific NamePeltophorum pterocarpum
Common Name(s)CopperpodYellow-flamboyantYellow flame treeYellow poincianaYellow jacaranda
NativitySoutheast Asia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsFern-like, dark green leaves with oval-shaped leafletsDome-shaped canopySmall, orange-yellow flowers

Native to the tropics of Southeast Asia, the copperpod is a well-known ornamental plant that’s popular for its exotic appearance.

It has a dome-shaped canopy with dense spreading fern-like, dark green leaves. These grow to about 30 to 60 cm in length and have about 20 to 40 oval-shaped leaflets, each about 8 to 25 mm long.

Copperpod (Peltophorum pterocarpum)
Image: Wikimedia Commons

After about 4 to 5 years, the copperpod plant begins to grow small, orange-yellow flowers. They’re also known to be fragrant, especially at night.

It also grows small, red-brown, pod-like fruits before turning black after ripening. Each pod grows to about 5 to 10 centimeters with 1 to 4 seeds inside.

While they typically only grow to about 65 to 80 feet, there are odd instances wherein they lengthen to twice their normal size. Meanwhile, its trunk is about 40 inches in diameter.

Its bark was traditionally used for medicinal treatments. In particular, for remedying body sores, bruises, and swelling, among others.

Aside from that, its trunk also makes a natural yellowish-brown dye. This is commonly used in the textile industry for coloring batik products and fishnets.

Meanwhile, its leaves are believed to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects.

Copperpod (Peltophorum pterocarpum)
Image: PlantIn

Care for the copperpod is relatively easy. They require a lot of sunlight, preferably full sun and is even considered drought-tolerance once it’s established. 

It also needs a regular watering schedule because it prefers having its soil dry out first. 

The only downside would probably be that regular pruning is necessary. As a deciduous plant, it may be troublesome to clean up its leaves.

8. Persian Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin)

Persian Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin)
Image: Notre Dame Sites
Scientific NameAlbizia julibrissin
Common Name(s)Persian silk treePink silk treeMimosa tree
NativitySouthwestern AsiaEastern Asia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Seeds and seed pods – YesLeaves and flowers – No
Unique CharacteristicsPom pom-like white and pink flowers grow in fluffy clusters and have thread-like stamensDark green-colored, fern-like leaves with small, oval-shaped leaflets that grow pinnately compoundLeaves fold inwards and close when touched or at nightLight brown trunk with a smooth, thin texture

Native to Asia, the Persian silk tree is an ornamental plant popularized for its pom pom-like blooms. Its white and pink flowers grow in fluffy clusters and have thread-like stamens.

Meanwhile, it has dark green-colored, fern-like leaves with small, oval-shaped leaflets that grow pinnately compound. They’re famous for folding inwards and closing when touched and at night.

It’s known to have a dense, flat spreading crown that makes it great at providing shade.

Persian Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin)


It’s also known to have a speedy growth rate, getting about 10 to 20 inches taller each year. Though, it’s quite a small tree, only growing to about 10 to 50 feet in height with a width of around 20 to 50 feet.

Depending on the variety, the Persian silk tree will either have a single or multiple trunks. They’re usually a light brown hue with a smooth, thin texture.

However, their stems are known to be quite weak. They’re also known to have a relatively shallow root system which makes it susceptible to tipping over, especially during storms.

Hence, they’re best planted away from infrastructure such as homes and driveways to prevent any damage.

Persian Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin)
Image: Owlcation

The seeds and seed pods of the persian silk tree contain a neurotoxin called ginkgotoxin, which is toxic to any animal that consumes it. 

However, the leaves and flowers aren’t. Hence, they’re commonly cooked or made into tea.

Persian Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin)
Image: Papervale Trees

As far as maintenance is concerned, the Persian silk tree has a preference for warm and dry conditions, which is why it likes receiving full sun and dryer soil types. Hence, it doesn’t fare well in wet and cold weather.

They’ll also require regular pruning as their dense foliage can get quite heavy. Overtime, branches will become distorted or hang too low and will need to be removed.

9. Man Fern (Dicksonia Antarctica)

Man Fern (Dicksonia Antarctica)
Image: Palm Place Nursery
Scientific NameDicksonia antarctica
Common Name(s)Man fernSoft tree fernTasmanian tree fern
NativityEastern Australia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsElongated, glassy, leaves that grow in a terminal rosette at the peak of its stemRed-brown to dark brown, hearty, textured trunk

Despite being a non-flowering tree, the man fern is a decorative centerpiece that brings a tropical feel to any landscape. 

This is primarily thanks to its elongated, glassy, leaves that grow in a terminal rosette at the peak of its stem.

Its leaves have a glassy shine from afar, but actually have a pretty rough texture. Its bipinnate to tripinnate leaves can also grow to be as long as 10 feet.

Another important feature of the man fern that strengthens its appeal is that its fern-like leaves are on full display throughout the year when grown locally. 

Otherwise, you can expect its fronds to slowly disappear as it’s deciduous in colder environments.

Man Fern (Dicksonia Antarctica)
Image: Gardeners World

Known to grow at a rather steady rate, the man fern can take up to 50 years to fully reach maturity. Hence, there’s no need to be concerned with minimal signs of development.

In its native regions, the man fern can reach heights of up to 30 feet. Otherwise, it only grows to about 13 feet in cooler regions.

It has a rather hearty, textured trunk with its diameter growing to about 28 inches. It’s also typically red-brown to dark brown.

Man Fern (Dicksonia Antarctica)
Image: Sloat Gardening Center

Even though the man fern prefers warm climates, it’s actually best planted in semi-shaded to fully shaded areas. This is to hinder the foliage from getting heat damage.

It also required a lot of water as it prefers its soil to retain regular moisture levels to prevent drying out. 

10. Hummingbird Tree (Sesbania Grandiflora)

Hummingbird Tree (Sesbania Grandiflora)
Image: Feedipedia
Scientific NameSesbania Grandiflora
Common Name(s)Hummingbird treeVegetable hummingbirdWest Indian peaKatturaiAgati
NativityMaritime Southeast AsiaNorthern Australia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsBell-shaped flowers that hang in twos and come in an array of colors – red, white, and pinkVertical, stringy seed podsLush green, fern-like foliage with pinnate oval-shaped leaflets 

The hummingbird tree was given its name because of its nest of vibrant flowers that bear a resemblance to fluttering hummingbirds.

They’re known to be prolific bloomers, which means that you can expect an abundance of bell-shaped flowers. They hang in twos and come in an array of colors – red, white, and pink. 

Along with the flowers hang vertical, stringy seed pods that hold about 20 seeds. Once they’ve matured, they split and disperse brown seeds.

Hummingbird Tree (Sesbania Grandiflora)
Image: Flora of Bangladesh

Its lush green, fern-like foliage also helps to give it a tropical look. Its pinnate oval-shaped leaflets grow to about 1 foot long and are arranged in pairs along the central vein of the leaf.

Hence, it’s favorite of many who want to add a stunning deciduous ornamental to their collection, especially given its manageable size with regular pruning.

Having said that, it can be grown in a pot as a patio tree or in the ground to provide speckled shade thanks to its willowy canopy. 

Hummingbird Tree (Sesbania Grandiflora)
Image: National Tropical Botanical Garden

In the right growing conditions, the hummingbird tree can reach heights of about 40 feet once fully mature.

Native to Maritime Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, it favors hot and humid conditions. Hence, you can expect it to be significantly smaller when planted in cooler environments.

Hummingbird Tree (Sesbania Grandiflora)
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The hummingbird tree is also commonly referred to as the “vegetable hummingbird tree” because its leaves, flowers, and fruits are edible. Whether eaten raw or cooked, they provide a great source of nutritional value.

Aside from that, they’re also popularly used for medicinal treatments, particularly salves. Its wood, on the other hand, is also used for woodworking projects.

11. Fern Pine Columnar Tree (Podocarpus Gracilior)

Fern Pine Columnar Tree (Podocarpus Gracilior)
Image: Sacramento Tree Foundation
Scientific NamePodocarpus gracilior
Common Name(s)Fern columnar treeYellowwoodBastard yellowwoodOuteniqua yellowwoodAfrican fern pine
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Yes
Unique CharacteristicsDense, glossy, slender, fern-like leavesSmooth-textured branchesThin, cylindrical trunk with a scaly texture

Native to Africa, the fern columnar tree is a bushy evergreen that requires minimal maintenance. It thrives in warm areas that receive full sun, requiring about 6 to 8 hours daily.

It’s also pretty adaptive, tolerating various types of soil once it has established. Though, it’s still best to plant it in soil that has an abundance of nutrients and adequate drainage.

As for its watering needs, it prefers a deep soak once a week which will be reduced to regular watering every other week once the tree turns three. 

Fern Pine Columnar Tree (Podocarpus Gracilior)
Image: Paradise Nursery

They’re a fan favorite for their dense foliage and glossy, fern-like leaves that add a tropical touch to any landscape. Its leaves are rather slender and grow to about 4 inches long.

After a while, its smooth-textured branches begin to drop, which gives it a unique drape-like style. Depending on your taste, you can leave them be or trim them to your liking.

It has a thin, cylindrical trunk that only reaches about 2 to 3 feet in diameter. Upon closer inspection, it’s quite scaly and has a reddish-brown color which eventually turns brownish-gray as it ages.

Fern Pine Columnar Tree (Podocarpus Gracilior)
Image: The Spruce

The fern columnar tree is also well-liked for requiring only minimal care. It has a moderate growth rate of about 15 to 30 inches each year.

When fully mature, it can reach heights of about 40 to 50 feet and a width span of about 25 feet. 

The fern columnar tree may look familiar because it’s commonly used as a decorative privacy screen. Hence, they’re easily spotted in gardens, backyards, and pool areas.

12. Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)
Scientific NameRhus typhina
Common Name(s)Staghorn sumacVelvet sumac
NativityNorth America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsDark reddish brown branches that are typically covered in small thin hairsFern-like, pinnate, lanceolate-oblong shaped leaves with serrated edges

Native to the woodlands of North America, the staghorn sumac is actually the largest of the North American sumac varieties. 

Despite being considered to be medium-sized trees, they’re known to grow to a height of around 15 to 25 geet and a width of about 20 to 30 feet.

The staghorn sumac is prized for its dense foliage of fern-like, pinnate leaves that are about 24 inches long. Each leaf is lanceolate-oblong shaped and has serrated edges. 

Come fall, they turn from bright green to yellow to orange, and eventually red. 

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)

The staghorn sumac also grows greenish-white to yellowish flowers. They grow in dense infructescence around the tree’s dark reddish brown branches that are typically covered in small thin hairs.

It has showy, berry-like, pyramidal fruits that grow in erect clusters to be about 8 inches long. They’re covered in fine hairs and turn bright red once ripened, eventually darkening as they age.

These berries act as a food source for various wildlife, especially in the wintertime. Aside from being eaten raw, its fruits can also be used to make juice or jelly. 

The plant’s shoots and leaves are also edible as long as you peel the outer bark as it can be quite bitter. They’re known to have a slightly sweet taste that’s more comparable to fruits than vegetables.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)
Image: Plants of the World Online

The staghorn sumac is well-known for thriving in harsh conditions such as extreme sun exposure and poor soil. In fact, they’re considered pest and disease-free, too, which makes for little maintenance.

They also perform well in various soil types for as long as it has adequate drainage. Having mentioned that, they also have relatively low to average watering requirements.

Though, it’s important to note that the staghorn sumac has a suckering habit. Hence, it’s in the best interest of neighboring plants to be planted at a distance.

13. Sweet Fern (Comptonia Peregrina)

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)
Image: North Carolina Extension
Scientific NameComptonia peregrina
Common Name(s)Sweet fern
NativityEastern North America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsFragrant foliage that emits a grassy, turpentine-like scent that’s somewhat ethanolic yet slightly fruity when crushedBushy, rounded bush Elongated, shiny, olive to dark green-colored leaves with deep incisions on each side

Contrary to popular belief, the sweet fern plant isn’t actually a fern. It’s a low-growing shrub that has fragrant, fern-like leaves.

Once crushed, it emits a grassy, turpentine-like scent that’s somewhat ethanolic yet slightly fruity.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)
Image: North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox

It’s native to Eastern North America and is commonly found on roadsides. Nevertheless, the sweet fern is actually a well-liked plant for its attractiveness and hardiness.

Despite only growing to about 3 feet tall, it can grow into a bushy, rounded bush thanks to its dense foliage.  

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)
Image: Go Botany

It has elongated, shiny, olive to dark green-colored leaves with deep incisions on each side. They grow to be about 4 inches long, closely bearing a resemblance to narrow fern fronds.

In some areas, its leaves are known to be used for a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes. It can either be used fresh or dried and can be used in dishes and made into tea or seasoning.

Once winter arrives, the leaves begin to turn brown and drop. However, there are a few that remain on the plant but continue to wither away.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)
Image: Johnson’s Nursery

Its leaves are attached to a single node along its brown stem that grows in brown, outspread branches. This gives it a fluffy and thick appearance once fully matured.

Hence, it’s also commonly used as an ornamental plant for its attractiveness. It’s also a favorite pick for ground-cover in open spaces or as a decorative privacy fence. 

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)
Image: North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox

Aside from being easy to grow, the sweet fern is also known to handle harsh environmental conditions well. It can withstand seasonal droughts, strong winds, and wet situations.

It’s also capable of fixing its own nitrogen, helping the soil neutralize. While it can grow in various types of soil, it prefers well-drained, sandy and acidic, loam-type soil.

However, it’s known to be quite fussy when transplanting. Hence, you’ll have to carefully select its location.

14. Smooth Sumac (Rhus Glabra)

Smooth Sumac (Rhus Glabra)
Image: Indigenous Landscapes
Scientific NameRhus Glabra
Common Name(s)Smooth sumacWhite sumacUpland sumacScarlet sumac
NativityNorth AmericaSouthern Canada
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsSlim, fern-like leaves with serrated edges that grow alternately with opposite paired leafletsSmall, yellowish-green flowers that grow in erect paniclesScrawny trunk with smooth wood that turns from green, reddish-brown to grayish-brown as it matures

Before anything else, it’s important to avoid getting confused with the poison sumac. Despite having similar names, the smooth sumac isn’t toxic.

Smooth Sumac (Rhus Glabra)

The smooth sumac has slim, fern-like leaves that are usually about 12 to 20 inches long with serrated edges. They grow alternately with opposite paired leaflets that are about 2 to 4 inches long.

While they’re typically lush green in color, they eventually turn yellow to orange and eventually to red in the fall. In the summertime, parasitic sumac leaf gall aphids cause small galls to form on the underside of the leaves.

Smooth Sumac (Rhus Glabra)
Image: Gardener’s HQ

Come spring, the smooth sumac produces small, yellowish-green flowers that grow in erect panicles. They form clusters that are about 4 to 10 inches long.

After a while, deep red, bud-like berries covered with fine, brown hairs form from the female flowers and last all throughout winter. They’re usually dried and turned into powder for herbal medicine or seasoning.

Smooth Sumac (Rhus Glabra)
Image: North Carolina Extension Gardener Toolbox

It has a rather scrawny trunk while the bark of its wood is quite smooth. It’s a green, reddish-brown color when young but as it matures, the bark begins to develop a more grayish-brown color.

They’re relatively medium-sized trees, growing to about 9 to 15 feet high and wide. Ultimately, how tall the tree grows to be will depend on its growing conditions. 

The smooth sumac is considered pretty hardy because of its adaptability. Naturally, it’s found on various terrain, from rocky hillsides to prairies.

However, they’re medium to high maintenance, which can be a bit off-putting to some. It requires regular watering, especially on its first growing season. 

The good news is that once your smooth sumac tree has properly established itself, it’s pretty much good to go. It’s known to be drought tolerant and will no longer need any extra watering.

15. Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria Paniculata)

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria Paniculata)
Image: LoveToKnow
Scientific NameKoelreuteria paniculata
Common Name(s)Golden rain treeChinese lantern tree
NativityEast Asia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsFern-like leaves that grow pinnately compounds in an alternate, feather-like pattern

Just as it sounds, the golden rain tree is famous for its large, golden-colored flowers. Hence, it’s a popular landscape plant for its dense and bushy foliage.

It’s a medium-sized tree, only growing to about 30 to 40 feet tall. Nevertheless, it serves as a great shade provider thanks to its widespread branches and rounded crown.

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria Paniculata)
Image: Encyclopedia Britannica

Its leaves grow pinnately compounds to be about 18 inches long and in an alternate, feather-like pattern. Each leaf is composed of several irregularly-lobed leaflets that have deeply serrated edges.

They’re often a pink-purple color that eventually turns apple-green as it matures, then to a golden yellow right before its leaves begin to fall. 

Having mentioned that, it’s worth noting that the golden rain tree is a deciduous plant. This means that you should expect it to lose its leaves at certain seasons within the year.

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria Paniculata)
Image: Illinois Wildflowers

As mentioned earlier, the golden rain tree’s main attraction is its bright golden-yellow flowers that have 4 to 5 petals. They grow in big, terminal panicles of around 8 to 6 inches long at the base of its branches. 

It was given its name because as the season closes, petals begin to drop little by little which resembles golden rain. Because it flowers at a relatively early age, you can expect a carpet of golden-yellow blooms at the base of the tree.

Its flowers also have medicinal use as they’re ophthalmic, which makes them another form of treatment for conjunctivitis and epiphora. Aside from that, its seeds can also be used for baking.

They also grow fruits that somewhat resemble Chinese lanterns because of their inflated, paper-like appearance. It has a 3-sided capsule that changes colors, from bright red to pink to brown as it ages.

Because of its showy appearance, the dried fruits are sometimes saved and used in dried arrangements.

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria Paniculata)
Image: Arbor Valley Nursery

Even then, it’s well-loved for its adaptability and hardiness. In fact, it’s known to withstand poor conditions such as excessive drought, wind, heat, and air pollution.

The golden rain tree is primarily grown in temperate regions and in locations that receive full sun. Even then, it prefers having a moist soil that has adequate drainage. 

It’s important to note that the golden rain tree is classified as an invasive plant in certain areas. Hence, it’s recommended that you conduct further research. 


Are ferns a type of tree?

Fern trees aren’t actually trees. They’re usually shrubs with elongated ‘trunks’ with a sizable, dense crown of fronds that make them resemble a tree.

What do you call a fern leaf?

Fern leaves are commonly called “fronds”. They’re characterized for being either large or long and having several profound divisions of multiple leaflets.
Depending on the type of plant, fronds can resemble the appearance of a fan or feather.

Where are fern-like trees typically found?

Fern-like trees primarily grow in sub-tropical and tropical climates. Hence, they typically prefer partial to full sun exposure and warm conditions. 
There are a few fern-like trees that can be found in temperate climates.

What are evergreen and deciduous plants?

An evergreen plant keeps its foliage fresh for more than one growing season, sometimes throughout the entire year.
Meanwhile, deciduous plants are those that lose all of its foliage at certain parts of the year.

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