This common fern has been around for a very long time – fossils over 55 million years old have been found. Unfortunately it tends to dominate other plants and can spread rapidly. This, combined with its toxicity and the decline in its use for animal bedding, tanning, fertiliser and in the production of glass and soap, has led to its removal in many places. There was a government eradication programme, and some water companies use special filters to remove the spores. The toxicity issue is a complex one, not least because the young, curled fronds – called “fiddleheads” – have been eaten by many cultures over the years, especially in east Asia, and continue to be today. But bracken contains a carcinogenic compound that isn’t a threat to you as you walk through it on the Chevin, but can be a problem if you ingest it, and people working amongst bracken should wear masks when it is releasing spores. If you or your dog have spent extended time amongst bracken it’s also worth checking for the sheep ticks it hosts. Bracken is Swedish for fern.
Photos by Pixabay and Neil Griffin