Botanical Name : Pteridium aquilinum
Species: P. aquilinum
Synonyms: Pteris aquilina Linnaeus
Common Name : Bracken or Common bracken
Habitat : Bracken is the most common species with a cosmopolitan distribution, occurring in temperate and subtropical regions throughout much of the world, including most of Europe, Asia, and North America in the Northern Hemisphere, and Australia, New Zealand and northern South America in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a prolific and abundant plant in the highlands of Great Britain. It is limited to altitudes of below 600 metres in the UK, does not like extreme cold temperatures, poorly drained Marshes or Fen. It causes such a problem of invading pastureland that at one time the British government had an eradication programme. Special filters have even been used on some British water supplies to filter out the bracken spores. NBN distribution map for the United Kingdom
It has been observered growing in soils from pH 2.8 to 8.6. Exposure to cold or high pH inhibits its growth.
Bracken is easily recognized by its large, triangular fronds. It is a very common fern, and it often grows in large colonies. Bracken is a fire-adapted species. It has deep rhizomes that survive fires, and ashes make the soil more alkaline, a favorable condition for germination of its spores.
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Evolutionarily, bracken may be considered to be one of the most successful ferns. It is also one of the oldest, with fossil records of over 55 million years old having been found. The plant sends up large, triangular fronds from a wide-creeping underground rootstock, and may form dense thickets. This rootstock may travel a metre or more underground between fronds. The fronds may grow up to 2.5 m (8 ft) long or longer with support, but typically are in the range of 0.6–2 m (2–6 feet) high. In cold environments bracken is winter-deciduous, and, as it requires well-drained soil, is generally found growing on the sides of hills.
It is an herbaceous perennial plant, deciduous in winter. The fronds are produced singly from an underground rhizome, and grow to be 1–3 m tall; the main stem is up to 1 cm diameter at the base. The rhizomes typically grow to a depth of 50 cm, although in some soils this may extend to more than a metre.
Sori on outer edge under the leavesThe spores used in reproduction are produced on the underside of the leaf in structures found on the edges of the leaf called sori. The linear pattern of these is different from other ferns which are circular and towards the centre.
An adaptable plant, it readily colonises disturbed areas. It can even be invasive in countries where it is native, such as England, where it has invaded heather (Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull) stands on the North Yorkshire moors.
Bracken fiddleheads (the immature, tightly curled emerging fronds) have been considered edible by many cultures throughout history, and are still commonly used today as a foodstuff. Bracken fiddleheads are either consumed fresh (and cooked) or preserved by salting, pickling, or sun drying. In Korea, where they are called gosari , they are a typical ingredient in the mixed rice dish called bibimbap.
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Both fronds and rhizomes have been used to brew beer, and the rhizome starch has been used as a substitute for arrowroot. Bread can be made out of dried and powered rhizomes alone or with other flour. American Indians cooked the rhizomes, then peeled and ate them or pounded the starchy fiber into flour. In Japan, starch from the rhizomes is used to make confections.
Bracken is called wiwnunmí útpas ‘huckleberry’s blanket’ by the Umatilla Indians of the Columbia River in the United States Northwest. The fronds were used to cover a basket full of huckleberries in order to keep them fresh.
Bracken has also been used as a form of herbal remedy. Powdered rhizome has been considered particularly effective against parasitic worms. American Indians ate raw rhizomes as a remedy for bronchitis.
In East Asia, Pteridium aquilinum (fernbrake or bracken fiddleheads) is eaten as a vegetable, called warabi in Japan, gosari in Korea, and juécài in China and Taiwan. In Korea, a typical banchan (small side dish) is gosari-namul that consists of prepared fernbrake that has been sauteed. It is a component of the popular dish bibimbap.
Bracken has been shown to be carcinogenic in some animals and is thought to be an important cause of the high incidence of stomach cancer in Japan. It is currently under investigation as a possible source of new insecticides.
Uncooked bracken contains the enzyme thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine. Eating excessive quantities of bracken can cause beriberi, especially in creatures with simple stomachs. Ruminants are less vulnerable because they synthesize thiamine.
It was traditionally used (and still is in certain areas like mid Wales) for animal bedding, which later broke down to a rich mulch which could be used as fertilizer.
When used by gardeners as a winter mulch it has been shown to reduce the loss of potassium and nitrogen and to lower soil pH.
Other uses were as packing material for products such as earthenware, as a fuel, as a form of thatch. The ash was used for degreasing woolen cloth.
The ash of bracken fern was used in making forest glass in Central Europe from about 1000 to 1700.
Bracken is currently harvested in the Lake District, Cumbria, United Kingdom to make commercial composts.
The young shoots are diuretic, refrigerant and vermifuge. The young shoots have been eaten as a treatment for cancer. The leaves have been used in a steam bath as a treatment for arthritis. A decoction of the plant as been used in the treatment of tuberculosis. 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. The root is antiemetic, antiseptic, appetizer and tonic. A tincture of the root in wine is used in the treatment of rheumatism. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of stomach cramps, chest pains, internal bleeding, diarrhea, colds and also to expel worms. The poulticed root is applied to sores, burns and caked breasts. An infusion of the plant has been used to expel intestinal worms and treat diarrhea. Native Americans used it to increase urine flow and to relieve stomach cramps. Medicine was made from the roots for Turkey Illness, symptoms of which are toes and fingers permanently bent. The plant was chosen because of its resemblance to turkey feet.
Known Hazards: The plant is carcinogenic to animals such as mice, rats, horses and cattle when ingested, although they will usually avoid it unless nothing else is available. Young stems are quite commonly used as a vegetable in China, Japan and Korea. However, some researchers suspect a link between consumption and higher stomach cancer rates. The spores have also been implicated as a carcinogen. Danish scientist Lars Holm Rasmussen released a study in 2004 showing that the carcinogenic compound in bracken, ptaquiloside or PTQ, can leach from the plant into the water supply, which may explain an increase in the incidence of gastric and oesophageal cancers in bracken-rich areas.
In cattle, bracken poisoning can occur in both an acute and chronic form, acute poisoning being the most common. In pigs and horses bracken poisoning induces vitamin B deficiency. Poisoning usually occurs when there is a shortage of available grasses such as in drought or snowfalls.
It damages blood cells and destroys thiamine (vitamin B1). This in turn causes beriberi, a disease linked to nutritional deficiency.
Also it contains ptaquiloside, pterosins and some metabolites
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.