Pteridiums spp.

Pteridium aquilinum, commonly called bracken fern, is a coarse, deciduous, rhizomatous, cosmopolitan fern found on all continents except Antarctica. It is typically found in woods (including somewhat dry woodland areas), fields, old pastures, thickets, areas with disturbed soils, burned-out areas and marshes. Established plants tolerate brief periods of drought. Bracken fern is composed of two subspecies with 12 varieties. Two varieties are native to Missouri (var. latiusculum and var. pseudocaudatum) where plants are primarily found in the Ozark region in rocky upland forest openings and road banks (Steyermark). Bracken fern typically grows to 3' tall and 4' wide (though sometimes much taller). Coarse, divided, triangular fronds rise directly from deep running rootstocks. Fronds typically tilt to being almost horizontal. Each frond (to 3' long) is 2-3 times (usually 3) pinnately compound. Sori (fruit dots) on fertile fronds appear in narrow lines near the leaflet margins. Underground rhizomes can grow to 20' long or more. Black roots grow along the rhizome. Fronds of this deciduous fern die back somewhat rapidly after the first fall frost with new fiddleheads emerging from the ground in spring. Although young fiddleheads are considered edible for humans, studies indicate the presence of carcenogenic compounds in this plant, with consumption of the fiddleheads by humans possibly increasing the risk of cancerous tumors developing in stomach or throat. Genus name from Greek pteris means fern. Specific epithet from Latin aquila means eagle. Bracken is an old English name for fern.

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