Matteuccia struthiopteris has separate and very different
sterile and fertile fronds together in conspicuous clusters. Sterile
leaves are long, the largest exceeding 100 cm. The petiole is
relatively short and the blade is long-tapering to the base with
the lowest pinnae very short. Fertile fronds are shorter than
the sterile, often in the range of 30-50 cm, becoming dark brown
and stiff when mature and often persisting
throughout the following winter. The combination of large,
conspicuously clumped fronds, long-tapering to the base and separate
fertile fronds is distinctive and unique in the Wisconsin flora.
Osmunda cinnamomea is somewhat similar, but the fronds
are only slightly narrowed at the base.
M. struthiopteris ranges from Alaska across Canada and
south to the Dakotas, Iowa and West Virginia. In Wisconsin it
is common throughout the state, in wet forests and often in deep
mucky soils or on springy sites and sometimes forming large populations.