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PTERIDIUM aquilinum

Image of Pteridium aquilinum

Jessie Keith

Family

Dennstaedtiaceae

Botanical Name

PTERIDIUM aquilinum

Plant Common Name

Bracken, Bracken Fern

General Description

Pteridium aquilinum is a vigorously spreading, medium to large fern of worldwide distribution. Most taxonomic references split this highly variable species into two or more species or subspecies and numerous varieties.

This sun-tolerant fern is among the first plants to invade disturbed soil, quickly forming extensive colonies via long, deep-running rhizomes. The fronds of this deciduous fern emerge as coiled, three-pronged "fiddleheads" in spring or early summer. They soon unfurl into broad triangular blades whose size varies widely with subspecies and habitat. The blade's segments ("pinnae") are paired along a woody, trough-shaped central stem ("stipe"). The lowermost pinnae are much larger than those above them, giving the frond a three-branched appearance. Each pinna is itself divided into numerous pinnate segments ("pinnules"). In summer, spores are borne in strips along the lower margins of the pinnules. The fronds turn golden brown in fall before withering. Spent fronds were traditionally used as roofing thatch or animal bedding.

Bracken fern grows in full sun to partial shade, depending on climate and soil. In hot arid regions, plants colonize shady, relatively moist habitats. In temperate zones they often occur in clearings and other sunny habitats. Although too rampant for most gardens, bracken makes a handsome fern for naturalistic plantings. Its fronds contain compounds that render them unpalatable to herbivores and that inhibit the growth of neighboring plants.

Potential hazards exist with bracken fern, especially in the harvest and use of young fiddleheads as food. For more information, visit: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Pteriaq.htm .

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 12

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Fern

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    1'-11' / 0.3m - 3.4m

  • Width

    2'-10' / 0.6m - 3.0m

  • Native To

    World/Pandemic

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Thicket/Colonizing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    None

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green, Lime Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Gold, Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Groundcover

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes