PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)

We recently featured ferns in general for plant of the day, but this one deserves its own spotlight.

Licorice Ferns are cool (literally) in so many ways. They are deciduous, but not like most other plants are deciduous. These go dormant for the summer to escape the hot dry weather. When temperatures cool and it starts getting wet again in autumn, they spring back seemingly out of nowhere and offer their green lushness for the next nine months.

Walk through Point Defiance Park or any mossy forest with mature trees and you will find them as single fronds spaced out in a loose colony sprouting from moss clumps on maples and alders, on decomposing stumps, and even on moss covered boulders. They are native from coastal Alaska to California and in inland forests throughout Washington, Oregon, and into western Idaho.

Licorice Fern is so named because rhizomatous root tastes exactly like licorice and is astonishingly sweet. One study showed that panels of human tasters judged it 600 times more sweet tasting than sucrose. It has been used for millennia to soothe sore throats, calm coughs, and chewed just because it tastes good. Other studies have shown it to be antiviral against herpes 1 virus.