Also known as eagle fern, bracken fern is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the Dennstaedtiaceae family that includes 10 genera and 240 species of ferns.  It is one of the most abundant ferns in the world and native to most of  North America where it grows in a variety of habitats including open woodlands, meadows,  savannas, thickets, marshes, burned areas and roadsides. Bracken is a vigorous plant and can become invasive because of its creeping rootstock. The fronds are used as thatching for houses, for fodder, and historically as a vegetable in Korea, Japan, Russian Far East, and parts of China although they contain carcinogens. Photo Credit Rasbak Wikimedia Commons

 Description: The plants grow 3-4′ tall and consist of a rhizomatous root system that sends up coarse triangular fronds that are 2-3 times pinnately compound.  The  fronds are yellowish green to green and those of plants  grown in the shade may be almost horizontal.  The margins of the leaflets are rolled under and those of fertile fronds bear the reproductive structures.  The fronds are sensitive to the cold and usually die back at the time of the first frost, but bracken is a vigorous plant and can become invasive because of its creeping rootstock. 

Control: An effective way to eliminate bracken it to cut it to the ground in early summer as soon as the fronds have unfurled and then again later in the year when the fronds have grown back. This procedure may have to be repeated for a couple of years but is effective for small stands and has little negative impact on the environment. Large stands of bracken can be plowed to expose the rhizomes to the sun and air which will dry them out and kill them but also has negative impacts the environment and wildlife. In extreme cases, glyphosate can be used, but is broad spectrum and will kill plants growing with bracken.


By Karen