Lining the Calla Pool are Cinnamon Ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), named for their brown spore-producing fronds visible in spring and early summer. The ecological value of ferns is not immediately apparent— they are rarely eaten by insects and don’t produce flowers, fruits, or seeds for pollinators or wildlife. What, then, is the role of a plant like Cinnamon Fern in the landscape?
Since it thrives in moist settings, its matted roots filter water, keep wetland and stream banks from eroding, and are a perfect substrate for bog orchids to grow into. Birds collect the fuzz from the fertile fronds for nesting material, and dense colonies provide habitat for small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Ecosystem services like weather sheltering, hiding places from predators, mating ground, and shade for temperature regulation are just as necessary for wildlife survival— plants are much more than food!