Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Eastern Bracken - Pteridium latiusculum   (Desvaux) Hieronymus
Members of Pteridium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 2 » Family Dennstaedtiaceae
Author(Desvaux) Hieronymus
DistributionThe long-known Pteridium aquilinum has been split, controversally, into two species in recent years. However, the distributions of P. latiusculum and P. pseudocaudatum are not yet resolved in NC. Weakley (2018) shows that the former occurs mostly in the mountains and Piedmont, while the latter occurs statewide but is mainly found in the Coastal Plain. Herbarium work is needed. Although a few herbaria do seem to have re-examined at least some of their specimens, and the SERNEC database contains a handful of specimens labeled as P. latiusculum, the editors believe that mapping such incomplete data would be misleading at the present time. However, the editors do provide a map of the original P. aquilinum (see that species account).

This is a Northeastern species, ranging from eastern Canada south to NC and TN, rarely to western FL and TX.
AbundanceCommon and widespread in the mountains and Piedmont, but apparently rare in the Coastal Plain, according to Weakley (2018).
HabitatThis species grows in dry, acidic places, such as in upland woods (often where xeric), wooded borders, powerline clearings, old field, and many other dry places.
PhenologyFruits from July to September.
IdentificationThe two combined species are very similar. Collectively, the group has a widely triangular blade, about as wide as long, about 2-3 feet tall, at times to 4 feet tall, of which the petiole accounts for 6-10 inches. The blade is bipinnate-pinnatifid to tri-pinnate, with the ultimate pinnules being lanceolate and entire in shape. The blade tends to be rather thick and with a shiny upper surface. The sori are linear and continuous, along the margins of the pinnules on the blade underside. Weakley (2018) indicates that P. latiusculum has "Leaf segment margins slightly to moderately pubescent (with 1-12 hairs per mm); terminal (caudate) tip of the basalmost pinnule of the basal pinna (3-) avg. 12 (-28)% as long as the entire pinnule; terminal segments of well-developed pinnules generally 2-4x as long as broad, about 3-8 mm wide" -- versus P. pseudocaudatum having "Leaf segment margins glabrous (rarely sparsely pilose with as many as 4 hairs per mm); terminal (caudate) tip of the basalmost pinnule of the basal pinna (16-) avg. 25 (-45)% as long as the entire pinnule; terminal segments of well-developed pinnules generally 6-15x as long as broad, about 2-5 mm wide." As a result, P. latiusculum has leaves with wider ultimate pinnules (thumb-like) and the terminal ends (lobes) of the pinnules are rather short; P. pseudocaudatum has more narrowly cut ultimate pinnules (finger-like), and a distinctly long terminal tip to pinnules.
Taxonomic CommentsSee above.

Other Common Name(s)Eastern Bracken Fern. Of course, Bracken or Bracken Fern applies to the combined two taxa/species.
State RankS5
Global RankG5T5 [G5]
State Status
US Status
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