Bracken - Pteridium aquilinum


Leaf length: 30 - 180 cm (occasionally up to 400 cm). Bracken is a well-known deciduous fern. It is easy to recognise by its straw-coloured branching stem, which can reach over four metres in height in good conditions. When they first appear in spring, the delicate new fronds which slowly unfurl have been likened to shepherd's or bishop's crooks. The young leaves are covered with downy hairs and brown scales. The individual lance-shaped 'leaflets' (pinnae) are 5 to 15 millimetres in length, and brown spore cases (sori) are found around the edges of the undersides of these segments.

Identification difficulty

This fern is found in moorland, hill pasture and a variety of other habitats with acidic soils. It particularly thrives on deep loams and sands, but is rare on alkaline soil.

When to see it

Deciduous - shoots appear in May and die back in autumn leaving stands of dead brown fronds.

Life History

This species reproduces by means of spores, which are released from the brown spore-cases on the undersides of the fronds. It can also spread by vegetative reproduction, from a subterranean creeping storage organ known as a rhizome.

UK Status

Bracken is extremely common throughout Britain, and its range has increased dramatically during the 20th century.

VC55 Status

Frequent in Leicestershire and Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 258 of the 617 tetrads.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map