Western Bracken Fern, Brake, Bracken, Northern Bracken Fern, Brackenfern
Pteridium aquilinum

Family: Dennstaedtiaceae
Genus: Pteridium (Ter-id-ee-um) (Info)
Species: aquilinum (ak-will-een-um) (Info)
Synonym:Pteridium aquilinum var. lanuginosum
Synonym:Pteridium feei
Synonym:Pteridium japonicum
Synonym:Pteris aquilina
Synonym:Pteris lanuginosa

Category:

Perennials

Ferns

Height:

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Spacing:

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade

Danger:

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Inconspicuous/none

Bloom Time:

N/A

Foliage:

Deciduous

Smooth-Textured

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

El Cerrito, California

Loleta, California

Long Beach, California

Napa, California

Saratoga, California

Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Reading, Massachusetts

Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Raleigh, North Carolina

Williamsburg, Ohio (2 reports)

Klamath Falls, Oregon

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Hoodsport, Washington

Shelton, Washington

Sumner, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

2
positives
3
neutrals
3
negatives
RatingContent
Negative

On May 22, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Pretty though it is in the wild, I would never introduce this into a garden. It's invasive and impossible to kill. It shrugs off herbicides, including glyphosate, and spreads aggressively by impossibly deep rhizomes.

There are many other more beautiful ferns with better garden manners.

Positive

On May 21, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

I first saw this species in the northwoods of MN and MI and finally in southeast PA. It spreads a lot by underground rhizomes and is not for a small garden. Great in a naturalistic landscape and beautiful like many ferns. The fronds are above the ground in stalks rather than rising directly from the ground.

Negative

On May 23, 2012, bhalper from Saratoga, CA wrote:

Very invasive. I've been pulling it from years. The slightest piece left tucked up against a rose bush regenerates and continues to spread. After winning a massive fight against Kudzu, it will eventually consume the entire globe.

Neutral

On Aug 13, 2009, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

The broadly triangular thick fronds have a coarse texture and are dark green. The edges of the segments are curled under. The frond can reach the dimensions of 3 ft. long by 3 ft. wide and the whole plant grows to about 4 ft. high. It grows in pine forests, burned areas, open woodlands and meadows at an elevation range of about 5000-8500 ft. This fern is the most common of ferns in Arizona, it's habit is weedy and tends to grow in large colonies. It dies with the first frost. Amongst other places in Arizona, it can be found at Black Canyon Lake.

Negative

On May 30, 2009, Arden2 from Olympia, WA wrote:

This plant is invasive. It has spread 20 feet into my lawn from the neighbors yard in one year even tho' I have cut or stomped each frond weekly, and mowed. Don't consider planting it. It does not seem to be controlled by Round-Up.

Positive

On Mar 25, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This fern is native to the USA (every state except Nebraska), Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Gabon, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Considered an endangered species in the U.S. state of Ohio.

Pteridium aquilinum thrives here in zone 9b, but is difficult to find in nurseries locally. It is invasive, and once established spreads quickly. This can be controlled by withholding water from adjoining areas.

Neutral

On Jun 13, 2005, gregr18 from Bridgewater, MA (Zone 6b) wrote:

The bracken is also poisonous to molting insects. It contains many different kinds of ecdysones, naturally occuring hormones that stimulate molting in insects, the hormones that Neem oil, often used to control lily beetles, mimic. These are also among the more popular ferns whose fiddleheads are harvested and eaten. While the fiddlehead stage is generally considered safe to eat, a high incidence of stomach cancer among bracken-eating populations in Britain and Japan has been noted and is being investigated. Bracken is also able to produce hydrogen cyanide in response to insect attacks. When its tissue is damaged, it releases an enzyme that splits prunasin, yielding hydrogen cyanide. As noted in the prior note, bracken can be poisonous to livestock, as it contains thaminase, an enzyme... read more

Neutral

On Nov 20, 2002, Baa wrote:

Bracken is found in many places throughout the world. While it's the only species in the genus there are around 5 different sub species found in different regions.

Has large, triangular fronds that grow straight from the rhizome on a leaf stalk. It can grow to 10ft tall but it's more likely to be within the range of 2-6ft. They reproduce by spores and rhizomes that can spread over 10 feet from the parent plant.

It's extremely invasive and is not one to be grown in a small garden. Fire won't kill it, only the fronds, in fact they like fire as it helps them recolonise an area quickly! The dried fronds are also a fire risk. It's resistant to various pesticides and one of the few effective controls used here in the New Forest is cutting the entire ferns to the gro... read more