NamingPteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum (Desvaux) L. Underwood ex A. Heller, Cat. N. Amer. Pl. ed. 3. 17. 1909.
Pteris latiuscula Desvaux, Mém. Soc. Linn. Paris 6. 2: 303. 1827
Pteridium latiusculum (Desvaux) Hieronymus ex Fries
DistributionSt. Pierre and Miquelon; Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld., N.S., P.E.I., Ont., Que.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Pa., R.I., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.; Mexico in Nuevo León; Europe; Asia.
StatusBecause of its aggressive growth bracken fern is considered a weed in many areas.
BehaviorYoung fronds have small nectaries positioned near the point where the frond divides. Ants and other insects have been observed feeding on these.
Because this fern often forms large colonies, it provides leafy cover to many kinds of wildlife. The Indigo Bunting and Chestnut-Sided Warbler have been known to construct nests on Bracken Fern.
HabitatIn barrens, pastures, open woodlands in moderately to strong acid soil, abundant, forming large colonies.
ReproductionBy spores and rhizomes.
PredatorsSome insects are known to feed on Bracken Fern. They include the caterpillars of some moths: Papaipema pterisii (Bracken Borer Moth), Callopistria cordata (Silver-Spotted Fern Moth), Callopistria granitosa (Granitosa Fern Moth), and Homochlodes fritillaria (Pale Homochlodes). Other insects that feed on this fern include larvae of the sawfly Aneugmenus flavipes, larvae of the sawfly Strongylogaster multicincta, the aphid Macrosiphum ptericolens, and the aphid Mastopoda pteridis.
DefenseThe leaves are rarely eaten by mammalian herbivores because of their bitter taste and toxicity. Young leaves produce a cyanide compound when they are damaged. The leaves also contain an enzyme that can cause thiamine deficiency and several carcinogenic compounds that are associated with cancer of the digestive tract and bladder. Both cattle and horses have been seriously poisoned by eating too much Bracken Fern.
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