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Bracken, Bracken Fern
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 .
12 - 1
3 - 12
1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade
1'-11' / 0.3m - 3.4m
2'-10' / 0.6m - 3.0m
Spring, Summer, Fall
Light Green, Lime Green
Yellow, Gold, Brown
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