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Pteridium aquilinum
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn, 1879

Kingdom:Plantae
Phylum/Division:Filicophyta
Class:Pteridopsida
Order:Polypodiales
Family:Dennstaedtiaceae
Genus:Pteridium
Species:P. aquilinum
Common Names:Bracken, Eagle Fern, Pasture Brake, Pakis Gila
Status:Vulnerable

Description

The rhizome is long-creeping and covered with fine, pale brown hairs. The large fronds are borne on a long stipe with the lamina dissected to the fourth order. The apex of each frond continues to grow for a considerable period, thus getting entangled with neighbouring fronds to form a thicket. The rachis is hairy in the groove above. The largest pinnules, whether pinnatifid of bipinnatifid, is about 20 cm long. The linear sori are located along the submargin. There are two indusia, one is the reflexed edge of the lamina and the other a thinner one attached just below the receptacle.

Read more about the Polypodiales order.
Read more about the Dennstaedtiaceae family.

Distribution

Worldwide in all  temperate and tropical countries.

General Biology

This is a terrestrial fern that forms thickets in open locations. As the rhizome is subterranean, it survives fires. It can be a noxious weed in Southeast Asia, especially in tea plantations.

Life Cycle

For an account of the life history of a fern, see Pyrrosia piloselloides.

Human Uses

The young shoots and rhizomes are used as feed and food. Among the Maoris of New Zealand, the rhizomes are collected to extract a starchy material, said to resemble that of arrowroot. The rhizomes can also be ground, then roasted or baked into a poor quality bread in times of famine. The fiddleheads are eaten as a vegetable, especially by the Japanese who regard them as a delicacy. The ash was formerly used in Europe for glass and soap making. The fronds are used as fuel and for thatching.

The plant has numerous medicinal uses in different countries. In Europe, the powdered rhizome is taken as an anthelmintic, diuretic and a sedative. In Indochina and Thailand the rhizome, roasted and powdered, is mixed with sesame oil or Selaginella, to treat snake bite. The Papuan New Guinea tribes use juice from the stipes to treat toothache and mouth infection. A decoction of the fronds is used against whooping cough, tuberculosis, bronchitis and costal pain. The juice squeezed from the fronds is given to women in labour to promote uterus contraction. The powdered fronds is used to treat wounds.

References

de Winter, W. P. & V. B. Amoroso (eds.), 2003. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 15(2). Cryptogams: Ferns and fern allies. Prosea Foundation, Borgor, Indonesia. 268 pp.

Holttum, R. E., 1966. A revised flora of Malaya. II Ferns of Malaya. Govt. Printing Office, Singapore (2nd ed.). 653 pp.

Parris, B. S., R. Khew, R. C. K. Chung, L. G. Saw & E. Soepadmo (eds.), 2010. Flora of Peninsular Malaysia. Series I: Ferns and Lycophytes. Vol. 1. Malayan Forest records No. 48. Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, Kepong. 249 pp.

Wee, Y. C., 2005. Ferns of the tropics. Times Editions-Marshall Cavendish, Singapore. 2nd ed. 190 pp.

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