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An abundant member of the fern family found in a wide variety of habitats.


Bracken: the ubiquitous fern

Post date: Friday, 21 February, 2014 - 00:00

I guess that of all the fern family bracken (Pteridium aquillinum) is the one that we could all name quite readily. Bracken seems to grow just about anywhere and everywhere. It is not only the most common fern in Dorset, it is the most common fern in Britain and indeed, in the whole world! Yes, we are all familiar with bracken.

Not only is it diverse in its choice of habitat growing on heathland, moorland, open woods, unploughed pasture and hedgerows, where it grows it is usually the dominant vegetation of the area totally swamping everything else and not giving other plants any light to grow. Sometimes bramble, campion or perhaps gorse compete but not much else can. A few insect species like bracken but not much else does. Unlike some other ferns it is not evergreen. It starts to grow in April and May and then it dies back in the autumn.

Attempts to control bracken by burning are doomed to failure as the plant has deep rhizomes that are totally unaffected by the flames and once the competitive vegetation goes so bracken is able to increase its grip. Indeed, unintentional heath fires can hasten the spread of this unwelcome plant.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Bracken
Scientific Name Pteridium aquilinum
Interest Level
Species Family Ferns
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
H1: Dry Heath Associated
W1: Broad-leaf Woodland Associated