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Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum (Bracken fern)
Cressler, Alan

Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn var. pseudocaudatum (Clute) A. Heller

Bracken Fern, Bracken, Western Bracken Fern, Western Bracken

Dennstaedtiaceae (Bracken Fern Family)

Synonym(s): Pteridium latiusculum var. pseudocaudatum


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A very aggressive fern for dry woodlands. The only fern for most dry shade situations. Ideal for dry Post Oak (Quercus stellata) forests and pine forests. The tripartite, furry, silvery fiddleheads emerge in early spring. The roots colonize aggressively and extend deep in search of moisture, as far as 10 feet deep in some locations.


From the Image Gallery

4 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb , Fern
Size Notes: Fronds up to about 5 feet long.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Not Applicable
Bloom Notes: Not a flowering plant. Reproduces by spores.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , MO , MS , NC , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WV
Native Distribution: Much of the eastern US, FL to TX to MA, IN, MO, and OK. In Texas, in east Texas and the southern Blackland Prairie as far west as Wilson County.
Native Habitat: Open woodlands, Thickets

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low , Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Acid clays, loams, and sands, preferably poor and sterile
Conditions Comments: Does not tolerate flooding. Though tolerant of dry soils, it goes dormant during droughts that last more than a week or two and will begin to die if it doesn't receive rain for 3 months. Requires a lot of water to get it established, but once established, relatively drought-tolerant, persistent, and aggressive.


Use Ornamental: Great foliage groundcover for dry woodlands
Use Wildlife: Provides shelter to small animals
Use Food: EDIBLE PARTS: Unfurled fronds. Gather young, tightly furled fiddleheads in early spring as soon as they first appear. Remove brownish, papery scales by rubbing with the hands. Soak for several hours in lightly salted water. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat in a pan filled with about 1/2 inch water. Drain well and serve like greens.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts, fiddleheads (curled-up leaves). Low toxicity if ingested. Symptoms include weakness, high fever, incoordination, convulsions. Toxic Principle: Thiaminase, a proteinaceous enzyme causing a reduction in vitamin B1; also a glycoside.
Interesting Foliage: yes


Propagation Material: Root Division
Description: Divide roots while plant is dormant.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Water regularly to get it established, then let it naturalize, watering only during extended droughts. Reduce watering if gets too aggressive. Cut back during winter so new spring growth will be unobstructed.


Bibref 293 - Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1979) Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 663 - Poisonous Plants of North Carolina (1994) Vondracek, W. ; L. Van Asch

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum


Record Modified: 2023-02-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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