Common Bracken

Pteridium aquilinum

Also called ‘Brake Fern’, this is a common and easily recognised fern. The stiff, triangular fronds are 3-times pinnate. They sprout individually straight from the rhizomes which can have a far-reaching spread. The spore cases are borne around the leaf margins. In autumn the fronds turn reddish-brown and die back to ground over winter until in spring when new fronds grow back. Plant height 1.5m and over.

Spore ripening time July to August. Found in woodland, heathland, grassland and hillsides. It prefers slightly acidic soil and dappled shade, but can tolerate full sun. A native species, and is common and widespread throughout Britain.

Bracken can be quite a serious problem in some areas because of its underground spreading nature via its rhizomes which can be as much as 400m in length. They can invade agricultural land and gardens where it can be hard to eradicate making it a noxious weed. The rhizomes can even survive fire. Bracken is poisonous to humans and livestock, and if ingested may cause oesophageal and stomach cancer.

Photographs taken June 2013 and December 2015, local woodland margin, Staffordshire.

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