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Western Brackenfern

Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum (Desv.) Underw. ex A. Heller

Dispersal

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This plant is abundant, forming large colonies. Colonies are more frequent in the northern part of the range. Fertile colonies, however, are more frequent in the southern and eastern portion of the range. (FNA, 2006)
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Distribution

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USA: AL , AR , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KY , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC (NPIN, 2007)

Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE (NPIN, 2007)

USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N), SPM(N) (NPIN, 2007)

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Genetics

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2 n = 104. (FNA, 2006)
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Habitat

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This is the commonest fern of oak woods, dune meadows, and open sandy clay soil. (Peattie, 1930) Native Habitat: Woodland,Forest Edge.(NPIN, 2007) This plant inhabits barrens, pastures, and open woodlands in moderately to strong acid soil. They are abundant, forming large colonies up to 1500 m in elevation. Colonies are more frequent in the northern part of the range. Fertile colonies, however, are more frequent in the southern and eastern portion of the range. (FNA, 2006)
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Life Expectancy

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This is a perennial. (NPIN, 2007)
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Management

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Pteridium aquilinum, (bracken or bracken fern) can be weedy or invasive. This plant may be known by one or more common names in different places, and some are listed above. (USDA PLANTS, 2009)
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Morphology

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FlowersThis is not a flowering plant. Instead it reproduces by spores. (NPIN, 2007)

Fruit dots occur in continuous confluent lines. (Peattie, 1930)

Fronds are dull light green and 3-forked at the summit of the stout stipe. The wide-spreading branches are 2-pinnate, the lower pinnules are pinnatifid. Fronds are ternately decompound (in compound divisions of threes) and rather coarse as to stipes and texture. (Peattie, 1930) The blade is broadly triangular to sometimes ovate, 3-pinnate or 3-pinnate-pinnatifid at the base. Blade margins and abaxial surface are shaggy, rachises and costae are glabrous (hairless) or sparsely pilose (furry) abaxially. Proximal pinnae are broadly triangular, while distal pinnae narrowly triangular or oblong. The terminal segment of each pinna is approximately 2-4 times longer than wide, and longer ultimate segments are less than their width apart. Pinnules are at 45°-60° angle to costa. The fertile ultimate segments are adnate (grown together) or equally decurrent and surcurrent. Outer indusia (membrane over sori--sporangia clusters) are entire or somewhat erose (appearing chewed), glabrous (hairless). (FNA, 2006)

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Risk Statement

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Vertebrate poisons: mammals. This plant is enough of a poison to mammals (particularly grazing) to have notable economic impact. (USDA GRIN, 2007)
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Size

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Fronds are 0.3-1 m tall. (Peattie, 1930) The petiole is 15-100 cm. The blade is 20-80 × 25-50 cm. The pinnae are ca. 3-6 mm wide. (FNA, 2006)

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Uses

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Folklore and fable have many references to bracken. In the past it was used in mattresses to prevent rickets, in pillows for the relief of asthma, and in many old time medicines. First Nations People often wore it over their heads to discourage blackflies. (NPIN, 2007)
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