Matteuccia struthiopteris | Ostrich Fern



Conservation status

Not Assessed

First reported in the wild



Invasive species - risk of Medium Impact

Irish status


Introduction pathways - 1

Escape from Confinement

Introduction pathways subclass - 1

Ornamental purpose

Invasive score


NAPRA Ireland risk assessed


Species Biology


Fern, with pinnate leaves up to 1.5m long, arranged in a 'shuttle cock' shape, with shorter fertile leaves up to 60cm long (Preston, 2004; Stace, 1997).


Outcompetes and crowds out native vegetation at site in Lough Neagh (Reynolds, 2002). Southern most range of the species in Europe appears to be in Poland (Grzybowski & Kruk, 2015) suggesting the climatic conditions in much of Ireland may be unsuited to it and are likely to become less suitable in future.


Woodland, forest and other wooded land; Mires, bogs & fens


Clonal plant and all root stocks within a population may have the same genotype (genes) (Grzybowski & Kruk, 2015), it spreads through stolons (Preston et al., 2004).

Pathway and vector description

Rare garden escape, Reynolds records 4 sites were it has been present, with only the Lough Neagh site seeming to persist (2002). Introduced into gardens due to the distinctive 'shuttle-cock' shape (Preston et al., 2002). As the population at Lough Neagh has been established but not spread since the 1920s (Reynolds, 2002) the likely vector for dispersal is human mediated, by secondary introductions from garden plants.

Mechanism of impact


Broad environment


Habitat description

Site near Lough Neagh of damp woodland typical of growth in the Britain, also found in fens, generally found in water logged clay soils (Preston, 2004; Reynolds, 2002).

Species group


Native region

Europe, North America, Temperate Asia


World distribution(GBIF)

Irish distribution

Established - Rare & Localised. Only recorded established population is on the shores of Lough Neagh where it has been present since the 1920s (Reynolds, 2002).

Native distribution

Despite the common name "ostrich fern", this species is native to the Cold Temperate and Boreal regions of North America, Europe and Asia, though absent from the western, northern and southern most parts of Europe (Odland et al., 2006). Introduced into Britain in 1760 (Preston et al., 2004).

Temporal change

Date of first record category


Fifty year date category


Records submitted to Data Centre in 2023

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How can you help

Report any sightings to the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Do not plant in the wild or in gardens where it may escape or seed into the wild.



Reynolds, S.C.P. (2002) A catalogue of alien plants in Ireland. National Botanic Gardens. Glasnevin, Dublin. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D. A. & Dines, T. D. (2002). New atlas of the British and Irish flora. An atlas of the vascular plants of Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, Oxford University Press. Stace, C. (1997). New Flora of the British Isles 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Grzybowski, M., & Kruk, M. (2015). Variations in the population structure and ecology of Matteuccia struthiopteris. Population Ecology, 57(1), 127-141. Odland, A., Naujalis, J. R., & Stapulionyte, A. (2006). Variation in the structure of Matteuccia struthiopteris populations in Lithuania. Biologija, 1, 83-90.