The ecological status of bracken



Information about the morphology of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn var. aquilinum) and the chief nutrients in the frond at different times of the year introduce an account of litter production and its accumulation in relation to the behaviour of frond, root and rhizome systems.

Where litter gain exceeds loss there is a correlation between the thickness and/or kind of litter and the level of the root and rhizome systems in relation to the mineral soil surface: with increase of litter the bracken becomes progressively more dependent for its physical and chemical soil environment on its own débris and less on the underlying mineral soil. An example of the limit of complete dependence has not been examined, but degeneration of the community can take place before that stage is reached.

From a review of the chief factors affecting bracken the conclusion is reached that the woodland habitat is both favourable and restrictive: in it bracken is in equilibrium with its environment, at a high social status. The relationship with other plant communities depends largely on the degree of human interference to which each is subject. Dominant bracken when left alone, and where gain of litter exceeds loss, becomes the victim of its own success; local degeneration opens the way for entry by other species.