E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn
bracken fern (western brackenfern)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© 3CDSG DND  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #4682)

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Distribution of Pteridium aquilinum
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Species Information

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Deciduous perennial from a long, creeping, underground rhizome.
Large, triangular, 3-pinnate, 60-170 cm long, 30-100 cm wide, with long, thick stipes, the ultimate segments numerous, woolly to smooth on the lower surface.
Most BC plants of this species belong to P. aquilinum ssp. lanuginosum. Two subspecies can be distinguished as follows:

1. Leaves broadly triangular, but rarely divided in 3 main segments; pinnules nearly at right angles to the rachis, their lower surface densely woolly or woolly short-hairy; the inner indusium fringed and sometimes also hairy.................... ssp. lanuginosum (Bong.) Hult.

1. Leaves mostly with 3 main subdivisions; pinnules at an oblique angle to the rachis, their lower surface nearly smooth and short-hairy only on the midrib; the inner indusium without hairs......................... ssp. latiusculum (Desv.) C.N. Page

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Dry to wet forest margins, peat bogs, avalanche tracks, clearings, roadsides, burns, dry openings in forest and meadows, from the lowland and steppe to subalpine zones; common in BC south of 55degreeN (ssp. lanuginosum) or rare in the steppe zone S BC (ssp. latiusculum); cosmopolitan, E to W AB, disjunct to MB and ON, and S to GA, TX, NM, AZ and CA; Eurasia, Africa, Australia, S America.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Pteridium aquilinum

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 2 616 1990
Slope Gradient (%) 0 24 150
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 191 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(130), CWH(881), ESSF(98), ICH(1027), IDF(46), MH(14), MS(11), SBS(44), SWB(1)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to subalpine, cosmopolitan fem (transcontiĀ­nental in North America). Occurs on water-shedding and water-receiving sites in boreal, temperate, mesotherrnal, and tropical climates; its occurrence decreases with increasing latitude and elevation. Scattered in coniferous forests where it is usually associated with Gaultheria shallon, Hylacamium splendens, and Vaccinium parvifolium; plentiful to abundant. often dominant, in initial communities on cutover and burnt sites where its vigorous growth and litterĀ­fall may hinder growth of conifers. Characteristic of fire-disturbed sites.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool temperate & cool mesothermal.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

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General References