Species: Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)

Family: Brackens et al (DENNSTAEDTIACEAE)

Category: Non-Flowering Plants

Location: SW

A. Non-Flowering Plants

More extensive information on non-flowering plants can be found in a separate blog post.

B. Brackens et al (DENNSTAEDTIACEAE)

Members of this tough, worldwide family have large, highly divided leaves, and their tolerance of a range of conditions can lead them to be invasive.

C. Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)

The starchy rhizomes of our most abundant fern are edible and can be dried and stored. Wild boar are fond of them, and can keep them in check. Bracken was commonly used to cover floors in homes and animal houses, and as a protective mulch and compost. It was said to protect the house from thunder and lightning. It contains a natural fungicide, of use against blight, and the juice kills aphids.

Additional Information

Ferns and Horsetails

Horsetails and ferns are related, and are collectively called pteridophytes. The characteristic appearance of ferns is of a plant with feathery or leafy fronds that release spores from the undersides of the fronds. Unlike lycopods fern fronds (megaphylls) are complex. They expand by the unrolling of a tight spiral called a crozier or fiddlehead. Fern species grow in a variety of habitats, dry, moist, shady, or sunny, often where flowering plants will not thrive. Many species are epiphytes. The study of ferns is called Pteridology.

Fern spores should not be confused with fungal spores, as the word ‘spore’ is being used in two different senses. Fungal spores are naked, there being no nutrient to assist initial growth. Fern spores do not themselves give rise directly to a new plant, but to green tissue known as a prothallus or gametophyte, upon which male and female organs develop and fertilisation takes place. It is this union that produces the new fern, or sporophyte, which grows the spore-bearing leaves called fronds. Fronds are borne on rhizomes, rooted stem that gives rise to fronds singly or in clusters called whorls. The shape and design of fronds identifies the species.

Superstitions surrounding ferns are many. Some think it is bad luck to touch or gather ferns, and to cut or burn them will bring on rain. A fern frond was put over a horse’s ear or collar to protect it from harm or the attentions of witches. Fern spores were thought to confer invisibility. Fronds were shaken at midnight and the spores collected on a plate held underneath. Ferns feature in many rituals for divining the identity of a future lover. If a bracken stalk is cut across it will reveal the initial of a future spouse.



Bracken contains a natural fungicide, of use against blight, and the juice kills aphids.


The starchy rhizomes of Bracken, our most abundant fern, are edible and can be dried and stored.