Pteridium aquilinum - Bracken

[IFBC-E-flora]

[E-flora]


Description

"Pteridium aquilinum is a FERN growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 2 m (6ft 7in) at a fast rate."
"It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. The seeds ripen from Jul to August."
"Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils."
"It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure."[PFAF]

"Although Moerman (1998) and Balick et al. (2000) separate Pteridium aquilinum var. caudatum into Pteridium caudatum, Wunderlin (1998) retains both as a single species. Regardless, P. aquilinum is widespread and was used by people from Alaska to Mexico and Florida." [Daniel F. Austin]

USDA Flower Colour: Green
USDA Blooming Period: Summer
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall [USDA-E-flora]

Hazards

Carcinogenic Properties

"It is well known that bracken fern causes a number of well-recognized toxicity syndromes in farm animals and humans, including carcinogenic activity (Vetter, 2009). In addition, we recently discovered that P. aquilinum induces immunotoxic effects, which are mainly characterized by a reduction in NK cell activities (cytotoxicity and IFNγ production) ( Latorre et al., 2009). The NK cell is one of the principal effector cells of innate immunity and has the capability to kill virally infected cells as well as certain tumor cells ( Abbas et al., 2007).... Se supplementation prevents and reverses these effects. Taken together, these results show, for the first time, that the immunosuppressive effects of bracken fern in mice are caused by ptaquiloside and can be prevented as well as reversed by Se supplementation." [SPI]


Edible Uses

This is a fern that is widely used as food in many countries of the world. [Harrington] Human use of P. aquilinum has a long history.[TPNA] "The young fronds and the rootstocks have often been used in many countries, especially in times of food shortage. It was a favourite edible plant with our North American Indians and, at least at one time, appeared in the markets of cities in the eastern part of the United States. The mature leaves, especially in hay, seem to be [poisonous]. It might be well to go slow on eating bracken in any stage, until you are sure you are not sensitive to it. We have certainly had no bad effects from eating the young leaves or rootstocks." [Harrington]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

Langham, in The garden of health (1579), gives 21 recipes for using bracken. “Burnings, Cattell galled, Festers, Gnats, Horsesicke, Kanker, Miltpaine, Mother suffocat, Nosebleeding, Purgation, Sinewes griefes, Skinne off, Sores, Wormes, Wounds” can all be cured by the use of bracken, and it even “maketh women barren” if you know how to use it correctly. [THEB]


Phytochemicals

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) KUHN - Dennstaedtiaceae [DukePhyt]

Common names: Bracken -- Bracken Fern

Chemical /Part/ Loppm /Hippm /Reference
2,4,6-TRIMETHYL-3-OXO-5-INDANACETIC-ACID Plant 20-HYDROXYECDYSONE Leaf
5-O-CAFFEOYLSHIKIMIC-ACID Leaf
ACETYLPTEROSINS Leaf
ALPHA-ECDYSONE Leaf
ANEURINASE Plant
AQUILIDE-A Plant
ARABINOSE Plant
ASH Leaf 6000 68965
ASH Rhizome 83000 92222
BENZOIC-ACID Plant
BENZOYLPTEROSINS Rhizome
BETA-CAROTENE Leaf 1
CAFFEIC-ACID Plant
CAOUTCHOUC Plant
CARBOHYDRATES Leaf 56000 643678
CARBOHYDRATES Rhizome 510000 566666
CATECHOL-TANNIN Rhizome 66000
CICHORIC-ACID Plant
CINNAMIC-ACID Plant

D-CAFFEYL-TARTARIC-ACID Plant
EO Rhizome 1800
FAT Leaf 1000 11494
FAT Rhizome 12000 13333
FERULIC-ACID Plant
FIBER Leaf 14000 160919
FIBER Rhizome 200000 222222
FUCOSE Plant
FUMARIC-ACID Leaf
GALACTOSE Plant
GALACTURONIC-ACID Plant
GLUCOSE Plant
GLUCURONIC-ACID Plant
HCN Leaf 560
HCN Plant
IODINE Leaf 0.9
ISOCROTONYLPTEROSINS Leaf
ISOQUERCITRIN Plant KAEMPFEROL-3-0-GLUCOSIDE Plant
KAEMPFEROL-3-RHAMNOGLUCOSIDE Plant

MANNOSE Plant
P-COUMARIC-ACID Leaf
P-COUMARIC-ACID Plant
PALMITYLPTEROSINS Leaf
PETROSIDE-A Rhizome
PHENYLACETYLPTEROSINS Leaf
PHENYLALANINE-AMMONIA-LYASE Plant
PONASTEROSIDE-A Plant
PROCYANIDIN Plant
PRODELPHINIDIN Plant
PROTEIN Leaf 10000 114942
PROTEIN Rhizome 95000 105555
PROTOCATECHUIC-ACID Plant
PRUNASIN Leaf 1580
PTAQUILOSIDE Plant
PTERAQUILIN Rhizome
PTERIDINE Plant

PTEROLACTAM Plant
PTEROSIDE-A Leaf
PTEROSIDES Plant
PTEROSINS Plant
QUERCETIN Plant
RHAMNOSE Plant
RUTIN Plant
SHIKIMIC-ACID Plant
STARCH Rhizome 450000
SUCCINIC-ACID Plant
SUGARS Rhizome 67000 213000
SULPHOQUINOVOSE Plant
TANNIN Plant
THIAMINASE-I Plant
TILIROSIDE Plant
VANILLIC-ACID Plant
WATER Leaf 913000
XYLOSE Plant [DukePhyt]

A variety of chemicals have been identified in bracken such as astragalin, isoquercitrin, rutin, catechol, tannins, pteraquilin, sugar, starch, aliphatic non-drying oil, and pectose micrin; however, there is no indication that these chemicals or their metabolites may be bladder carcinogens.[Fishbein CMEEBS]


Nutritional

Bracken Fern – Pteridium aquilinum
Part: Roots (Dry) Per 100 g fresh weight
Water (g)14
Protein (g)9 [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Part: Roots (Fresh) Per 100 g fresh weight
Water (g)68
Protein (g)12.5
[Turner, Kuhnlein]


Activities

  • Astringent Woi.8; [DukePhyt]
  • Bactericide* Woi.8; [DukePhyt]
  • Carcinogenic* Lewis; [DukePhyt]
  • Cyanogenetic Eb30: 402; [DukePhyt]
  • Mutagenic* Lewis; [DukePhyt]
  • Poison* Lewis, Duke,1972, Woi.8; [DukePhyt]
  • Sedative Bliss; [DukePhyt]
  • Sialogogue Eb25: 69; [DukePhyt]
  • Taenifuge Duke,1972; [DukePhyt]
  • Tonic Bliss; [DukePhyt]
  • Vermifuge Duke,1972, Krochmal, Uphof; [DukePhyt]

Cultivation

"Prefers a light, acid, deep sandy soil[1]. Dislikes shade according to some reports[13, 17] whilst another says that it tolerates full sun but prefers light shade[200]. Prefers a pH in the range 4 to 6[200]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233]. This is an extremely invasive plant and is a noxious weed. It is one of the most widespread plants in the world, being found in all parts of the globe other than the extreme north and south[4]. Plants can be cut down twice a year to provide compost material, this will not kill the plants. If the plants are cut down three times a year this will gradually weaken and eventually kill them." [PFAF]

Propagation

"Spores can be surface sown in the same way as other ferns but this plant really does not need any help in spreading itself about. Division is also possible but usually totally unnecessary."[PFAF]


Warabi

Warabi Starch is a very light-coloured powder made from the roots of Warabi ferns.
The ferns need to be at least 1 or 2 years old before they are harvested.
The roots are ground to a powder, which is then put into a water solution, and filtered. The powder is then dried for 1 1/2 months.
Three grades are produced: "ultimate" (the highest grade), "prime" and "medium." -http://www.cooksinfo.com/warabi-starch, April 4, 2015

Warabi Mochi (Bracken-starch Dumpling) Warabi mochi is a Japanese sweet made by mixing bracken powder (obtained from bracken starch) with water and sugar. These ingredients are then heated until the mixture becomes translucent, whereupon it is dipped into running cold water until it cools and hardens. Typically, it is eaten with brown sugar syrup and soy flour on top. -http://www.narumi-mochi.jp/kaisetsu-e/warabi_mochi.html, April 4, 2015


References

  1. DukePhyt - Accessed Feb 13, 2015, http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/
  2. E-flora - http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Pteridium%20aquilinum Accessed Dec 18, 2014
  3. [EBFF] Evidence for Bracken Fern as a Food for Aboriginal Peoples of Western Washington, Helen H. Norton, Economic Botany, Vol. 33, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1979)
  4. [Fishbein CMEEBS]Chemical Mutagens Environmental Effects on Biological Systems, By L Fishbein
  5. PFAF - http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Pteridium+aquilinum, Accessed Dec 28, 2014
  6. [PFP] Physicochemical and functional properties of fern rhizome (Pteridium aquilinum) starch, Shurong Zhang, Geng Zhong, Beiyu Liu and Bo Wang, Starch - Stärke Volume 63, Issue 8, pages 468–474, August 2011
  7. [PPC] PURIFICATION OF PTAQUILOSIDE, A CARCINOGEN FROM PTERIDIUM AQUILINUM, PETER B. OELRICHS, JACK C. NG and JOHN BARTLEY, National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology, The University of Queensland, Phytochemistry, Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 53-56, 1995
  8. [SPI] Selenium reverses Pteridium aquilinum-induced immunotoxic effects, A.O. Latorre, B.D. Caniceiro, H.L. Wysocki Jr., M. Haraguchi, D.R. Gardner, S.L. Górniak, Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 49, Issue 2, February 2011, Pages 464–470
  9. [THEB] The History and Ethnobotany of Bracken, L. Rymer, Botany School, University of Cambridge, Botanical Journal of The Linnean Society, 73, 1976
  10. [TPNA] Toxic Plants of North America, By George E. Burrows, Ronald J. Tyrl, Wiley 2013.

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