Eagle fern

22 March 2023

World citizens on their way to sunny places

"helecho común" "helechera" "helecho hembra"


Eagle fern

Pteridium aquilinum


Only found in polar regions and desert zones - on La Palma it spreads quickly on unused arable or pasture land. Caution: Do not nibble on the leaves, the whole plant is poisonous!


-Its population is increasing

The bracken thrives on light, fresh sites at an altitude of between 0 and 1500 metres above sea level.

It is perennial, withers in summer and reappears with the rain in autumn. The young fronds "unroll" after and can grow up to two metres long. They are very persistent. The entire plant usually grows between 30 cm and 2 m tall.

As a sun lover, this fern grows on forest edges or sparse patches in wooded areas, where it quickly conquers abandoned cultivated areas. 

Its low-lying and strongly branched rhizomes (creeping shoots) enable it to survive forest fires.

It is one of the first plants to appear and protect the soil against erosion.

The bottom of barrancos (ravines) suits the lode fern particularly well. There it finds sun and water, which makes the plants grow more luxuriantly. In dark locations, they stretch out towards the sunlight with the help of other plants.

The bracken fern is found on all the Canary Islands except Fuerteventura. It gets its name because of its fronds, which resemble spread wings.

Livestock seem to know that it contains toxins and usually disdain the plant, although it is sometimes used as stable bedding.

Nevertheless, bracken is used in folk medicine. In addition, the rhizomes were dried, ground and roasted in times of war and probably by the indigenous people of the Canary Islands to add to gofio, their staple food.

As a precaution, we advise against eating bracken.

Its young tips, by the way, make interesting photo subjects.

Text / Photos: Ines Dietrich

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