Pteridium aquilinum

The most common of all Pennsylvania ferns

Pteridium aquilinum bracken fern

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

The red-green, three-parted fronds are connected by long rhizomes that spread through the soil very fast.  One large patch of this fern can easily be a single colony.  Because this fern mostly spreads this way, it is quite rare to find one with sori.  Bracken fern also regrows fast after forest fires.  It grows in many places, often covering the forest floor.  The 3 sections of the frond uncoil like an eagles claw, which is the reason for the Latin epithet aquilinum.

Grows in many places, such as woods, old pastures, burned-over areas, and thickets.  Often indicates poor and barren soil.

Range is New England and northern New York, west to Illinois and down to Alabama and Georgia

Wetland codes

Appears in early spring, new leaves produced all summer.


Sterile and fertile fronds are the same

Blade  broadly triangular, divided into 3 almost equal parts, almost parallel to the ground, coarse, leathery texture.

Pinnae longer than wide.  Lowest pinnae form 2 parts of the triangular blade, are large relative to the upper pinnae, almost opposite and distinctly stalked and cut into pinnules.  Upper pinnae less divided with uppermost barely lobed.

Pinnules narrow, close together, variable; usually with narrowed tips

Stipe long, about the same length as the blade or longer, smooth, rigid; green, dark brown later in the growing season; grooved with square corners.

Sori form infrequently in narrow lines near margins of pinnules,  start out silverish and turn brown later.

Rhizome dark, scaleless, sometimes hairy. Can be as long as 15 ft and 10 ft deep in the ground

Pteridium aquilinum bracken fern

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Pteridium aquilinum gallery
Common Names
bracken fern common bracken fern eagle fern