Pteridium aquilinum   Bracken CCC D N

Pteridium aquilinum whole Pteridium aquilinum young shoot Pteridium aquilinum close

There are claims for various sub species for this plant but fortunately Stace recognises only two as not enough studies have been undertaken to split this species further. This plant, the commonest one, is ssp aquilinum the other one, ssp latiusculum is mainly Scottish. Of all the ferns this is the one most people might recognise as it rather thrusts itself into many views of the countryside. As you pass in the car you notice how sometimes half the hillside, several acres, is covered by bracken. The thing you don't recognise and is even more amazing about this plant is that the 3 acres of growth you look at are likely to be just one plant! Just to confound everyone even more it produces new green shoots (Shepherd's crooks) very late in Spring and dies off early in the Autumn.

The way this plant grows never ceases to astound me for in the spring our Cheshire country lanes are full of lesser celandines (Ficaria verna ssp fertilis) and Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) in the early and mid Spring but by mid summer the bracken is taller than most hedges swamping everything.

Believe or not there are one or two places in the British Isles where Pteridium aquilinum doesn't grow. It is scarce near the Wash and on the Isle of Lewis but can be found everywhere else even on the outer islands.

LHS & Middle: Helsby field, Cheshire 1st May 2005 RHS: Helsby field 24th May 2006

Added on December 3rd 2004, updated 28th July 2011

Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict