Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bracken Fern


Pteridium aquilinium ( Bracken Fern )
A very attractive but unfortunately very invasive, fast growing, rhizome spreading Fern, reaching a maximum height of 8 ( record is 14 for subspecies in the Andes Mountains of South America ) feet, though typically under 5 feet. Runners have been known to extend out 20 feet from the parent plant and old clumps as much as 60 feet across have been found. It is an impressive architectual addition to the landscape when planted on a site that allows its massive size. The Bracken Fern is native to sandy swamps as well as cold coniferous and northern hardwood forests in both North America and Eurasia including the British Isles. In North America it is found from Skagway in coastal Alaska to Mackenzie, British Columbia to central Alberta to Churchill, Manitoba to central Quebec to Newfoundland; south into Mexico to south Florida ). It has declined considerably in southern Ontario; was considered abundant throughout Windsor, Essex County, Pelee Island as well as the Ohio shore before 1900. It is endangered in Alberta.
The leaves, up to 3 x 3 feet, are bright green and divided into 3 equal subleaves which are triangular in shape and composed of up to 20 leaflets.
Hardy zones 3 to 8 in partial to full shade on moist soil, preferably but not exclusively sandy and acidic. It is easy to grow and is even tolerant of sun though less vigorous. It is not bothered by pests or disease and is not eaten by deer ( in fact the fact that grazing animals do not eat it and that its roots release substances that inhibit the growth of surrounding plants allow it to take over large areas of land ).
Bracken Fern is an excellent source of Potassium and ash from burnt plants can be used as a potash rich fertilizer.
The dried fronds can be flammable and in some regions are best pruned to ground level during late autumn.

* photos taken on May 6 2010 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

* photo taken on Sep 3 2012 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on July 14 2016 in Tobermory, ON

* photos taken Aug 2016 @ Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, MD

* historical archive photos

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