The cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) is quite possibly one of the most beautiful plants in the Back Woods. This showy fern is deciduous and produces distinct fertile and non fertile fronds above a dark wiry mass of roots (ever seen osmunda fiber at your garden store) that is characteristic of all members of the Osmundaceae family. The Osmundaceae family contains some of the oldest ferns documented. The cinnamon fern and royal fern (Osmunda regalis), also found in the Back Woods, could therefore be classified as living fossils, too cool!
Cinnamon ferns are named for their distinct fertile fronds that are dark cinnamon-y in color; the reduced modified leaflets appear like crumpled curled cinnamon bark. The sterile fronds start out curled tight in a fuzzy fiddle heads. The fuzz is purported to be a desired nesting material for hummingbirds, deer are fond of the fiddle heads for browse, and steamed or boiled fiddle heads are popular with wild foods crowd.
Cinnamon ferns are a characteristic plant of wet flatwood pine forests and can even be a dominant groundcover in wet hardwood hammocks. Remarkably, these plants are tolerant of fire and regenerate readily (even increase in cover) in frequently burned habitats. You can see cinnamon ferns all along the Flatwoods Trail (new shell trail) as well as near the boardwalk.