Bracken fern

Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. March 2011.

Scientific name: Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn

Common name(s): Bracken fern, brackenfern, western brackenfern, bracken, western bracken, common bracken

Links: USDA PLANTS Profile, NPIN Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)


– perennial

Reproduces by spores and creeping rhizomes (some up to 18′ long).  Rigid leaf stalk 1′-3′ long, and swollen at base, leaf blades 2′-4′ long and 1′-3′ wide, triangular to oval shaped with or without hairs on the underside, spores in light brown masses on the underside of the leaf blade.

– two subspecies in New England, ssp. latiusculum and ssp. pseudocaudatum; see Flora Novae Angliae information at bottom of Go Botany webpage


Haines, A., Farnsworth, E., Morrison, G., & New England Wild Flower Society. (2011). New England Wildflower Society’s Flora Novae Angliae: A manual for the identification of native and naturalized higher vascular plants of New England. Framingham, MA: New England Wild Flower Society. p. 54.