Plant of the Week: Hay-Scented Fern

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Dennstaedtia punctilobula is a new addition to the High Line this year, and it already provides an immediate contribution to the park's visual aesthetic during these early summer months. With hairy yellow-green fronds, which appear radiant in the afternoon sun, its presence provides a slight variation in color to the Diller – von Furstenberg Sundeck. Displaying pinnate leaflets that can measure up to 30" in length at maturity, Dennstaedtia punctilobula is typically used to establish a lush ground cover in a woodland garden setting. However, there is more to this plant than just its visual qualities. Commonly referred to as hay-scented fern, when brushed by your hand or naturally bruised, it releases the scent of fresh mown hay; a fragrance quite unique to any urban environment.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

In horticulture, it pays to be cognizant of where plants originate from in nature because it informs our decision of putting the right plant in the right place. Since Dennstaedtia punctilobula is habitually found in the understory of deciduous forests, located underneath heavily shaded tree canopies, its placement in the park is significantly influenced by its original ecological landscape. As you walk the High Line, be mindful of these design principles.

Dennstaedtia punctilobula can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions in zones 3-8. Usually accustomed to fully shaded areas of moist, rich soil; Dennstaedtia punctilobula can also grow in moderately sunny areas containing poor, rocky soil. In its ideal setting of eastern North America, Dennstaedtia punctilobula can be found in deciduous forests where it will grow upwards of 2' in height with a 2-4' spread; making this fern great at providing dense groundcover in a planting schematic. However, be aware that it spreads aggressively via rhizomes, so it may compete with any neighboring plants for resources. Otherwise, feel free to include Dennstaedtia punctilobula in a spacious matrix planting or underneath a bear tree canopy as they are known for their resistance to insects, diseases, or deer.

You may find Dennstaedtia punctilobula located in the Diller – von Furstenberg Sundeck & Water Feature section of the High Line, between 14th and 15th Streets.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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