Pteridium aquilinum (L.)

bracken fern

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Bracken fern often becomes dominant after disturbances such as fire, logging and grazing due to its deep rhizome. Humans have used bracken fern for thatch, livestock, bedding, and food, though it does contain some toxic compounds.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), forest edges, forests, meadows and fields, woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf divisions
the leaf blade is three times compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets), or more
Plant growth form
the leaves grow from a rhizome growing at or below the ground
Spore-bearing leaflets
the spore-bearing fronds are similar in size and shape to the sterile fronds
Sorus shape
there are no sori, or they are concealed in leaf segments or hardened, capsule-like structures derived from a modified leaflet
Leaf stalk scales
there are no scales on the leaf stalk
Leaf stalk hairs
  • the leaf stalk has hairs
  • there are no hairs on the leaf stalk
Leaf blade length
20–80 cm
Leaf vein tips
the veins go all the way to the edge of the leaf blade
Show All Characteristics
  • Growth form
    Life form
    the plant is herbaceous and terrestrial
    Life stage
    the plant is visible as a typical leaf-bearing fern (sporophyte)
    Spore-bearing leaflets
    the spore-bearing fronds are similar in size and shape to the sterile fronds
  • Leaves
    Features of leaves
    there are nectaries near the base of the leaf blade
    Leaf blade length
    20–80 cm
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blades are roughly triangular
    • the leaf blades are widest above the base, then taper broadly towards the tip (ovate)
    Leaf blade tip shape
    the tip of the leaf blade is a sharp point (acute)
    Leaf blade width
    At least 20 cm
    Leaf divisions
    the leaf blade is three times compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets), or more
    Leaf lifespan
    the leaves drop off in winter
    Leaf stalk color
    yellow to brown
    Leaf stalk hairs
    • the leaf stalk has hairs
    • there are no hairs on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk length
    100–1000 mm
    Leaf stalk relative length
    the leaf stalk is more than a quarter, but less than three quarters as long as the blade
    Leaf stalk scale location
    there are no scales on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk scales
    there are no scales on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk vessels
    10 or more bundles
    Leaf vein branching
    the secondary veins of the leaf blade branch dichotomously (two equal branches at each branch point)
    Leaf vein tips
    the veins go all the way to the edge of the leaf blade
    Leaflet relative size
    the bottom leaflets are about half as long as, to slightly longer than, the leaflets from the middle of the frond
    Leaflet stalks
    the leaflets are stalked
    Lobe or leaflet pairs
    5–24
    Lobe or leaflet shape
    • the lobe or leaflet is extremely narrow, thread-like
    • the lobe or leaflet is rectangular but with rounded ends (oblong)
    • the lobe or leaflet is widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends; egg-shaped
    Plant growth form
    the leaves grow from a rhizome growing at or below the ground
    final leaf segment margin
    the topmost lobe or leaflet of the leaf blade has a smooth or lobed edge
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of forests
    • forests
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • woodlands
  • Spores or spore cones
    Sorus features
    there are no special features on the sorus
    Sorus shape
    there are no sori, or they are concealed in leaf segments or hardened, capsule-like structures derived from a modified leaflet
    Sporangia location
    the spores are clustered on sori on the lower surface of the leaf blade
    Sporangium type
    the sporangia are opaque without an annulus and usually without a stalk (leptosporangiate)
    Spore forms
    there is only one type of spore present

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. latiusculum

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. pseudocaudatum

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR), #NAME? (code: #NAME?)

Native to North America?

Yes

Genus

Pteridium

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn ssp. latiusculum (Desv.) Hultén is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. P. aquilinum (L.) Kuhn ssp. pseudocaudatum (Clute) Hultén is known from CT, MA.

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