FARMINGTON — Fiddlehead season for Franklin County is now drawing itself to a close with the brief window for growth and harvesting reaching the end of its season, but the recent flooding in Farmington may have extended the seasonal life expectancy of ostrich fern fiddleheads briefly, according to David Fuller, formerly of University of Maine Farmington’ Cooperative Extension office.

A graduate from the University of Maine with a B.S. in Plant and Soil Science, Fuller offered his input on the effect the recent flooding could have on the fiddlehead population, which started to sprout in late April.

“They can withstand a flooding,” Fuller stated. “As long as it wouldn’t be for like a month or something, of course. These floods around here are very fleeting, and they don’t last long.”

Ostrich fern fiddleheads on the riverbank of Temple Stream on Tuesday, May 9. Despite the flooding, the fiddleheads kept on growing healthy and strong. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

According to Fuller, ostrich fern fiddleheads are very resilient and can easily withstand brief flooding. The flooding, in theory, could have temporarily extended the seasonal growth of ostrich fern fiddleheads in areas affected by the recent flooding, but only by a few days.

The season in which ostrich fern fiddleheads grow and are harvested is typically from the end of April to the beginning of June, which is a window of about six weeks. Fuller, however, says that this is for across the state of Maine, and in each area, the window for fiddlehead growth and harvest is no more than five days.

Based on his knowledge, flooding would stop the growth of ostrich fern fiddleheads briefly, but once the water recedes, the fern would resume growth quickly.


“I have no scientific observations about how long it takes them to come back from after being flooded,” he stated, “but, it’d be at least probably three or four, maybe five days before they start to wake up again. It’s quite a shock to get covered with water like that, but they’re very used to it.”

Fuller also said that the season for ostrich fern fiddleheads started early, which might be partially due to the light weather conditions Maine saw this recent winter.

“Usually, they’re not ready for the Fiddlehead Festival, but they were starting to come up,” he stated.

When asked if the flooding added any extra measure in cleaning and preparing, Fuller offered his input.

“We wouldn’t have any different recommendations for cleaning,” he said. “You’d rinse some to get the brown parchment paper off of them, but always rinse them in potable water. Some people pick them and then they’ll rinse them in the river to get the parchment off, and that’s definitely not recommended.”

With Franklin County’s fiddlehead season ending, Fuller offered his perspective on the recent flooding, citing an area off Front St. in Farmington that was under water a few weeks ago.

“If you’re heading towards the Farmers Union, on the left, there’s a little parking area in there,” he stated. “You’ll notice that there’s a very deep ditch and that was filled with 10 feet of water. And yet right now, I’m sure when you go down there, it’d be nice and bright and green. There’s going to be plants growing there.

“It’s such an ephemeral thing that that flood water comes in, and then it recedes quickly and then plants just go about their business again.”

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