11 Trees With Fern-Like Leaves

  • By: SFUAA
  • Date: May 5, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Ferns and similar plants contribute to their environment by providing oxygen and improving air quality while also giving your yard or garden the perfect landscaping design. Fern trees are easily recognizable for their foliage design, also called fronds. These fronds can come in various shapes, sizes, and even textures that vary from tree to tree.

If you’re looking for trees with fern-like leaves, some of your options are the Jacaranda tree (Jacaranda Mimiosifolia), Royal Ponciana (Delonix regia), Fern Leaf Tree (Filicium Decipiens), Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis Velutina), Staghorn Sumac (Prosopis Velutina), and Sweetfern (Comptonia Peregrina).

Have you ever come across a tree with fern-like leaves and need help identifying it? As you have read on you will find that most fern-like trees can be found across the globe, especially in the United States. Let’s take a deeper look at these trees with fern-like leaves that can make a great addition to any garden. 

Jacaranda Mimosifolia

Photo 67343039 / Blue Jacaranda © Vanessa Bentley | Dreamstime.com

The Jacaranda tree, known as Jacaranda Mimosifolia, is a tropical tree native to South America. Although indigenous in South America, they’re sold and planted in many other countries with warm climate conditions. 

Its popularity is due to its production of fragrant-shaped blooms that are usually purple. These exotic flowers grow during the spring and summer months. Their leaves are very fern-like.

The Jacaranda tree makes an excellent tree for shade coverage, with its fern-like leaves that can grow up to 20 inches (50.80 cm) in length. Height can vary depending on where it’s grown. In tropical climates, it can grow to about 10 feet (3.05 m) in a year in its early stages of life. While in non-tropical environments, growth rates tend to slow down. 

Royal Poinciana

Royal Ponciana (Delonix Regia) | Photo 91772769 © Westhimal | Dreamstime.com

Royal Poinciana, also called Delonix Regia, flamboyant tree, and the flame tree, is a tree species native to Madagascar. 

Royal Poinciana is known for its fern-like leaves that are green but develop vibrant orange to red-colored flowers on its branches. It’s evergreen and will grow up to 40 feet (12.19 m) in various soil conditions, specifically in the tropical zones that receive full sun coverage – generally, USDA hardiness zones 9b-11.

However, in cooler regions, it may shed its leaves throughout the year. The delicate, fern-like leaves of this tree provide light shade and the perfect backdrop to any landscape. Although it’s close to being endangered in its native region of Madagascar, it has thrived in other areas, widely grown and cultivated as ornamental trees, preventing these species from becoming extinct.

Royal Poinciana does require maintenance for homeowners who own this type of tree, especially during the winter and spring months when the shedding of their pods is in full swing. The Royal Poinciana also requires pruning to continue to develop the tree structure and branch growth. 

Filicium Decipiens

Depositphotos 307830000 DS
Fern Leaf Tree (Felicium Decipiens) | Source: Deposit Photos

Filicium Decipiens, also known as the Japanese fern tree, has dense foliage and fern-like leaves of a bright-green color. Although it’s called the Japanese fern tree, it’s neither a fern nor indigenous to Japan. Interestingly, this tree has origins tracing to East Africa and South Asia. It’s evergreen, preferring to grow in warmer regions with days of full or partial sun. 

Although they’re known for their naturally rounded crown of foliage, they produce white clusters of blooms once a year and sometimes small inedible berries. Although inedible, these berries can leave stains on sidewalks around the trees once they drop to the ground. 

Filicium Decipiens are usually small to medium-sized ornamental species of trees, traditionally utilized for landscaping as they require very little care. If you live in a similar climate for Japanese fern trees, they’re the perfect tree to add to your yard design, as they require minimal trimming and regular watering. 

Prosopis Velutina

Velvet Mesquite Tree (Prosopis Velutina) | Photo 189013068 / Blue © Chris Cornish | Dreamstime.com

Prosopis Velutina, also known as the Velvet Mesquite tree, is a small multi-stemmed shrub native to deserts in southwestern US and Mexico. Prosopis Velutina tends to grow in dry arid climates but can grow up to 30 to 50 feet (9.14 to 15.24 m). These trees can be recognized by their short, dark-green fern-like leaves, closely spaced and covered with fine hairs. 

The Velvet Mesquite tree also has deep roots that can reach underground water and thorns at the base of the branches. This tree will usually produce yellow cluster blooms that turn into seed pods, a local food source for native animals in the region during the spring season. Interestingly these trees provide an excellent source of nectar for honey bees. 

Rhus Typhina

Staghorn Sumac | Photo 157766725 © Estelle Bowden | Dreamstime.com

Overall, you can easily identify any fern-like trees that you spot in your region. 

Rhus Typhina, also known as Staghorn sumac, is a tree native to eastern North America. Interestingly, the Rhus Typhina is a flowering species in the Anacardiaceae family. 

This tree species tends to be medium-sized trees to herbs growing anywhere from one to ten feet (0.31 to 3.05 m) high. Rhus Typhina usually has fern-like leaves and can change from green to yellow-orange in the autumn months. 

The Staghorn sumac shouldn’t be confused with the poison sumac. Although they share a similar name, the staghorn sumac isn’t poisonous. 

It can grow under various conditions but is usually located in poor soil on which other plants can’t survive. It can also grow in full sun to partial shade areas. Sumacs are fast-growing in dry and drought-tolerant regions, such as dry uplands and old fields.

The fern-like leaves can start as green over the year and turn into different colors, slowly turning yellow to orange to red in the fall. These leaves can grow up to 18 inches (45.72 cm) long. Interestingly, the female plants can usually produce a cluster of red-like berries in the fall through winter months. In contrast, male plants don’t have berries at all.

Comptonia Peregrina

Sweetfern | Photo 199413202 © Gerald D. Tang | Dreamstime.com

Similar to Rhus Typhina, the Comptonia Peregrina tree is also native to Eastern North America. Comptonia Peregrina is also known as a sweet fern. Although it’s called a sweet fern, it’s not a fern but a low-growing shrub with fern-like leaves. When crushed, the leaves can give off a pleasant fragrance. 

These tree leaves can also have an array of edible and medicinal purposes. The sweet fern grows as a low shrub or rounded bush with a maximum height of four feet (1.22 m). The fern-like tree grows well in sandy soils, with the leaves turning into a dark green color. 

Peltophorum Pterocarpum

Copperpod AKA Yellow Flame Tree | Photo 99547270 © Kampwit | Dreamstime.com

Peltophorum Pterocarpum, also known as copperpod or yellow flame tree, is native to tropical southeastern Asia. Peltophorum Pterocarpum has fern-like leaves with bipinnate leaves, each with 20 to 40 oval leaflets. Although it can grow up to 80 feet (24.38 m), it can grow double the size in some cases. 

Peltophorum Pterocarpum is known for its yellow blooms. The tree’s flowers can also become decorative red as the months evolve. Peltophorum Pterocarpum requires a large amount of sun and moderate watering.

Acacia Filicifolia

The Acacia Filicifolia, also known as Fern-Leaved Wattle, is native to Eastern Australia, usually found on the roadsides of New South Wales. 

The Fern-Leaved Wattle is part of the legume family, Fabaceae. It’s a shrub or tree with compound leaves similar to ferns. These fern-like trees tend to have a short lifespan of close to 25 years but can reach a maximum height of up to 50 feet (15.24 m). 

Their branch structures are similar to ferns; however from July to October, these trees produce yellow blooms, which evolve into dark brown pods. The fern-leaved wattle is also known for its bright yellow flowers, which bloom from autumn to late spring. 

Gleditsia Triacanthos

Honey Locust Tree | Photo 33450865 © Feodor Vasilevich Korolevsky | Dreamstime.com

The Honey Locust Tree, also known as Gleditsia Triacanthos, is native to central North America but can grow in many other areas worldwide in sunny locations with rich soil. Interestingly, this tree goes by different names, including thorny honey-locust, or thorny locust, getting its name from the sweet taste of its edible seed pods. 

The Honey Locust species are commonly known for their shading capabilities due to their dense foliage and their ornamental purposes. Their branches usually have dense clusters of thorns and fern-like leaves with bright-green leaflets. Its shrubs can attain a maximum height of close to 98 feet (29.887 m) with a medium-to-long life span extending up to 120 years.

Rhus Glabra

Smooth Sumac | Photo 199413148 © Gerald D. Tang | Dreamstime.com

Rhus glabra, also known as Smooth sumac, is native to most of North America and Southern Canada. Smooth sumac is the only tree species native to all 48 contiguous states. The smooth sumac can grow up to 20 feet (6.10 m) with short and crooked leaning trunks and branches. 

They can grow in dry to medium moisture soil that’s kept well-drained. Poison sumac is sometimes confused with the smooth sumac. However, Rhus glabra isn’t toxic. 

Interestingly, Smooth sumacs are also dioecious with male and female plants. In the spring and early summer, the plant produces yellowish-green flowers. The female plant also has clusters of drupes that ripen to a red color in the autumn and darken throughout the season. These drupes end up feeding over 300 different bird species.

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)

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Golden Rain Tree Sapling | Source: My Back Yard | CC-BY-4.0

The golden rain tree is another good candidate for a tree with fern-like leaves. It gets to be up to 40′ tall, and produces a large variety of beautiful golden flowers that makes this a beautiful addition to your landscape.

It also is less likely than other trees to cause problems with your plumbing or foundation.

Golden Rain Tree | Photo 161170425 © Chengusf | Dreamstime.com

On the down side, it is considered invasive in some areas, and it produces a bunch of seedlings, so do your research before planting it.

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