Pteridium esculentum (DENNSTAEDTIACEAE) Common Bracken

Plants to Plant

Rhizomatous, perennial, herb (fern), to half a metre high in moist sandy soils, along creeks in eucalypt forest. Bob Mesibov, Research Associate, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston notes that in most countries Pteridium spp. are considered weeds. Bracken blocks the growth of other vegetation, including tree seedlings. It’s typically the first plant to re-establish after a weed- clearing fire. It causes cancer and other diseases in sheep and cattle, and blindness in goats. However, in bushcare, bracken offers shade and a relatively moist microclimate for a wide range of flying and crawling species, not to mention a place to hide from predators. The slow-rotting fronds and stems (stipes) of dead bracken provide an even shadier, moister microenvironment for litter invertebrates.

Photo: Robert Whyte