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Bracken fern

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Bracken fern
Bracken fern.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species
  • P. aquilinum (western brackenfern)
    • P. a. decompositum ( decomposition brackenfern)
    • P. a. latiusculum ( western brackenfern)
    • P. a. pseudocaudatum (western brackenfern)
    • P. a. pubescens (hairy brackenfern)
  • P. arachnoideum (tropical brackenfern)
  • P. caudatum (southern brackenfern)
Spore sori
Under a bracken fern.jpg

Pteridium aquilinum comes from the Greek word Pteris meaning "fern". Aquilinum comes from Latin and it means "eagle like". Bracken is an old word that was used in old English and used to mean all large ferns but now it is only applied to this specific species. The bracken fern may be considered a pest that no one would want in there yard but in fact it has its uses. It is commonly used today as food for humans. Both the fronds and rhizomes have been used to brew beer. So when you see a bracken fern next time remember that it has its uses.[1]

Contents

Anatomy

a fly sitting on a bracken fern

Bracken is the common name of this tall widespread fern. Most people consider the fern to be a weed it can also sometimes be known as a brake. Many animals feed on bracken ferns but if a animal eats to many they may become toxic. The most palatable parts of the bracken fern are the young fronds and the rhizome. When the fronds of a bracken fern become damaged or injured they release hydrogen cyanide gas. Herbivores such as sheep can sense the substance on the leaves and so they are able to avoid it. Back in the middle ages the bracken fern was used as a source of fuel and also as roofing material. The bracken fern itself is actually quite useful even though many people seem to not like to have it around. The rhizomes in a bracken fern are also useful because their extracts can be used in order to dye wool and also tan leather. The starch of a bracken fern can be used as a type of flour. The bracken fern is a monocot and contains all of the things that any normal monocot would contain.[2]The bracken fern is 1 to 3 feet in height and the stalk can be up to 3 inches but are normally shorter than the leaf blade. The blades of the fern separate into pinnae and the bottom pair sometimes is large enough to suggest a three part leaf. The bracken is killed by frost every winter and new ones grow in the spring. Dead ferns create a highly flammable litter that insulates the rhizomes below ground from the frost when there is no snow cover. [3]

Reproduction

Ferns reproduce by an alternation of generations. The sporophyte generation of the fern produces asexual spores in spore-bearing structures called sporangia which are found in clusters that look like brown dots (called sori) on the underside of leaves. No ferns reproduce by seeds although they have fossils of some fern-like plants that were seed producing.[4]

Ecology

A lot of bracken ferns

The bracken fern grows on many different kinds of soils but you will never find them at a heavy waterlogged site. The bracken is able to survive in areas that would be to dry for most other ferns because efficient stomata control. The bracken grows best on deep well drained soils that are able to hold and contain water well. In the northern climates the bracken is normal found on hills and slopes since it is susceptible to frost damage. Ferns spores are light and are carried by the wind and allow them to move to vacant spots that are well shaded.[5]

Identification

Three good ways for you to be able to identify a fern is to look for wide triangular leaf that is parallel to the ground, there is a smooth, rigid stalk as long as the leaf, and there is a narrowed tip to leaflets.[6]

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