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Toxic parts

There are a number of reports regarding the possible health risks of this plant. The huge quantity of spores released by large areas of bracken are suggested to be implicated in stomach cancers. A recent study suggests that this is not such a problem in Britain as was once believed, the spores are not produced in such high quantities nor do they travel so far due to our normally humid atmosphere. The leaves and roots contain substances that deprive the body of vitamin B1 if they are eaten raw, though they are possibly alright cooked[1]. The leaves are also said to be carcinogenic[2][3].

Edible uses


Root - cooked. It can be dried and ground into a powder[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][1][11]. The root is very fibrous so traditionally it was baked after being dried, the outer skin was peeled off and the roots pounded into a powder with sticks so that the inner fibres could be removed[12][13]. The dried root will store for years[12]. The root contains 60% starch[14]. The dry weight content of starch is between 43 and 72%[12]. This starch can be extracted from the roots and is used in making dumplings which are eaten with soya flour and sugar as a delicacy[15]. The root has a somewhat constipating effect upon the body so is best eaten with foods that have a laxative quality[13]. Young shoots, harvested when still unfurling, can be eaten raw or cooked[4][5][7][16][9][1][15][11]. They can be used like asparagus or like spinach[17][11]. Somewhat flavourless, though they are considered to be a delicacy in Japan[18]. The fronds should be used when less than 20cm long, longer ones have a terrible taste[17][19]. The shoots are somewhat bitter so they are often blanched for a few minutes in boiling water, then left to soak in cold water for two hours before being cooked[18][17]. Although this might well improve the flavour, it will greatly reduce the nutritional value[K]. The shoots should be steeped in lye first[7]. Occasional use should cause no problems, but regular consumption is not advisable because the shoots might be carcinogenic[17][2]. The plant yields an edible saccharine substance[7]. (from the cooking root??).


Unknown part

Material uses

A glue can be made from the rootstock[14]. A brown dye is obtained from the fronds[20][21][22]. It is green according to another report[22]. The fibrous remnants from edible roots make a good tinder[23]. The rhizome lathers readily in water and can be used as a soap[14]. A decoction of the root has been used as a hair wash[11]. The roots have been rubbed into the scalp in order to promote hair growth[11]. The roots have been pounded to remove the bark, then split into flat bands and used as the black strands of cheap baskets[11]. The ashes of the plant are rich in potassium and could be used as a fertilizer[18]. They are also used in the manufacture of glass (when mixed with sand) and in making soap (when mixed with vegetable oil)[18][14]. The roots contain up to 20% potash in early summer, but this reduces to about 5% in the autumn[18]. The whole plant is a very valuable addition to the compost heap, it is rich in potash and makes an excellent compost for tree seeds[21][9]. Cut twice a year if you want the plants to continue growing, three cuts annually will weaken and eventually kill off the plants. The dried ferns produce a very durable thatch[18]. The leaves are used as a packing material for fruit, keeping it fresh and cool without imparting any colour or flavour[18][8][23]. They are also used as a lining for baskets, fruit drying racks etc and as a bedding[8][23]. The leaves repel insects and can help to prevent rot in the fruits etc[23]. Dried bracken fronds are very useful in the garden as a mulch for somewhat tender plants. This will keep the soil warmer, protect from wind damage and also keep off some of the rain[4, K].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

The young shoots are diuretic, refrigerant and vermifuge[18][6][9][24]. They have been eaten as a treatment for cancer[11]. The leaves have been used in a steam bath as a treatment for arthritis[11]. A decoction of the plant as been used in the treatment of tuberculosis[11]. A poultice of the pounded fronds and leaves has been used to treat sores of any type and also to bind broken bones in place[11]. The root is antiemetic, antiseptic, appetizer and tonic[11]. A tincture of the root in wine is used in the treatment of rheumatism[24]. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of stomach cramps, chest pains, internal bleeding, diarrhoea, colds and also to expel worms[18][6][9][25][11]. The poulticed root is applied to sores, burns and caked breasts[25][11].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Spores can be surface sown in the same way as other ferns but this plant really does not need any help in spreading itself about. Division is also possible but usually totally unnecessary.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Pteridium aquilinum. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Prefers a light, acid, deep sandy soil[26]. Dislikes shade according to some reports[5][27] whilst another says that it tolerates full sun but prefers light shade[28]. Prefers a pH in the range 4 to 6[28]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[29]. This is an extremely invasive plant and is a noxious weed. It is one of the most widespread plants in the world, being found in all parts of the globe other than the extreme north and south[18]. Plants can be cut down twice a year to provide compost material, this will not kill the plants. If the plants are cut down three times a year this will gradually weaken and eventually kill them.


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Pteridium aquilinum. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Pteridium aquilinum.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Pteridium aquilinum
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Strong wind
  • Maritime exposure
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
1.2 x 2
Flower Colour
Flower Type

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"image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki."image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki."image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.


  1. ? Kavasch. B. Native Harvests. Vintage Books ISBN 0-394-72811-4 (32202/01/01)
  2. ? Frohne. D. and Pf?nder. J. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. Wolfe ISBN 0723408394 (32202/01/01)
  3. ? Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (32202/01/01)
  4. ? Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (32202/01/01)
  5. ? Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-33545-3 (32202/01/01)
  6. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (32202/01/01)
  7. ? Harris. B. C. Eat the Weeds. Pivot Health (32202/01/01)
  8. ? Freethy. R. From Agar to Zenery. The Crowood Press ISBN 0-946284-51-2 (32202/01/01)
  9. ? Sweet. M. Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West. Naturegraph Co. ISBN 0-911010-54-8 (32202/01/01)
  10. ? 10.010.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (32202/01/01)
  11. ? 11.0011.0111.0211.0311.0411.0511.0611.0711.0811.0911.1011.1111.1211.1311.1411.15 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (32202/01/01)
  12. ? Crowe. A. Native Edible Plants of New Zealand. Hodder and Stoughton ISBN 0-340-508302 (32202/01/01)
  13. ? Turner. N. J. Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples UBC Press. Vancouver. ISBN 0-7748-0533-1 (32202/01/01)
  14. ? Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR. Israel Program for Scientific Translation (32202/01/01)
  15. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (32202/01/01)
  16. ? 16.016.1 Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold ISBN 0442222009 (32202/01/01)
  17. ? Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (32202/01/01)
  18. ? 18.0018.0118.0218.0318.0418.0518.0618.0718.0818.0918.1018.1118.12 Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (32202/01/01)
  19. ? 19.019.1 Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (32202/01/01)
  20. ? 20.020.1 Mabey. R. Plants with a Purpose. Fontana ISBN 0-00-635555-2 (32202/01/01)
  21. ? Ahrendt. Berberis and Mahonia. Journal of the Linnean Society, 57 (32202/01/01)
  22. ? Carruthers. S. P. (Editor) Alternative Enterprises for Agriculture in the UK. Centre for Agricultural Strategy, Univ. of Reading ISBN 0704909820 (32202/01/01)
  23. ? Turner. N. J. Plants in British Columbian Indian Technology. British Columbia Provincial Museum ISBN 0-7718-8117-7 (32202/01/01)
  24. ? Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (32202/01/01)
  25. ? Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (32202/01/01)
  26. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (32202/01/01)
  27. ? 27.027.1 Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (32202/01/01)
  28. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (32202/01/01)
  29. ? Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (32202/01/01)

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"image:Pteridium aquilinum.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

Facts about "Pteridium aquilinum"RDF feed
Article is incompleteYes +
Article requires citationsNo +
Article requires cleanupYes +
Belongs to familyPolypodiaceae +
Belongs to genusPteridium +
Has common nameBracken +
Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
Has edible partLeaves +, Root + and Unknown part +
Has edible useUnknown use + and Sweetener +
Has environmental toleranceMaritime exposure + and High wind +
Has growth rateVigorous +
Has hardiness zone4 +
Has imagePteridium aquilinum.JPG +
Has material partUnknown part +
Has material useAdhesive +, Basketry +, Biomass +, Compost +, Dye +, Hair care +, Lining +, Mulch +, Packing +, Repellent +, Soap +, Soap making +, Stuffing +, Thatching + and Tinder +
Has mature height1.2 +
Has mature width2 +
Has medicinal partUnknown part +
Has medicinal useAnthelmintic +, Antiemetic +, Antiseptic +, Diuretic +, Poultice +, Refrigerant + and Tonic +
Has primary imagePteridium aquilinum.JPG +
Has search namepteridium aquilinum + and x +
Has seed requiring scarificationNo +
Has seed requiring stratificationNo +
Has shade toleranceLight shade +
Has soil ph preferenceVery acid +, Acid + and Neutral +
Has soil teclayture preferenceClay +
Has soil teloamyture preferenceLoamy +
Has soil tesandyture preferenceSandy +
Has sun preferenceFull sun +
Has taxonomy namePteridium aquilinum +
Has water requirementsmoderate +
Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
Tolerates air pollutionNo +
Tolerates maritime exposureYes +
Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
Tolerates windYes +