Pteridium - Dennstaedtiaceae

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn ssp. capense (Thunb.) C.Chr.

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings






Pteris capensis Thunb.
Allosorus capensis (Thunb.) Pappe & Rawson
Pteris coriifolia Kunze
Allosorus coriifolius (Kunze) Pappe & Rawson
Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn var. lanuginosum (Willd.) Kuhn
Pteris lanuginosa Bory ex Willd.

Common name

Bracken Rugombwe Uhombwe


Rhizome widely creeping, subterranean, 5-10 mm in diameter (up to 2.5 cm when fresh); rhizome scales brown, very fine, up to 1 mm long. Fronds widely spaced, stiff, hard, erect, pubescent fronds, 0.3-1.8(-3) m tall, often forming large, dominant colonies in suitable habitats. Stipe up to 0.5 m long, underground portion swollen and covered with fine, brown hairs, above-ground portion pale-green, glabrous. Lamina 3-pinnatifid to 4-pinnate, triangular to oblong-ovate in outline. Pinnae ovate-triangular in outline, up to 40 x 15 cm, standing out from the rhachis horizontally at nearly right angles; basal pinnae half as long as the lamina; pinnae in the upper half 3-pinnatifid. Pinnules deeply incised, joined to the costules, linear to oblong, lobes narrowly oblong with rounded apices, lower surface with short hairs. Rhachis and secondary rhachises pale brown, eventually hairless. Sori linear, continuous, situated just inside the inrolled margins; pseudo-indusium continuous, membranous, c. 0.5mm wide, ciliate.


The rhizomes of this fern are fire resistant and after periods of frost or drought, the dried, brittle fronds may persist for some time. New fronds will develop soon after the start of the rains, showing the typical "fiddleheads" of the unfolding fronds. It forms extensive colonies.


aquilinum: of an eagle; either because the spreading pinnae resemble the wings of an aegle or a reference to the shape of the vascular bundle in the stipe.
capense: of the Cape.


Grassland, open scrub, forest edges, rain forest clearings, woodland, thicket on coral rag and sandy soil at the coast, weed in cultivations.

Distribution worldwide

This subspecies is widespread in tropical Africa & South Africa, also in Madagascar, Mauritius and Réunion. The species as a whole is one of the most cosmopolitan fern species.

Distribution in Africa

Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Dem. Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko), Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania , Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form



  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Pages 103 - 104. under subsp. aquilinum (Includes a picture).
  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature. Pages 284 - 285. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 208 - 209. described under subsp. aquilinum (Includes a picture).
  • Kornas, J. (1979) Distribution and ecology of the Pteridophytes in Zambia. Polska Akademia Nauk Wydzial II Nauk Biologicznych. Pages 82 - 83. Under subsp. aquilinum
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Pages 89 - 90. under subsp. aquilinum (Includes a picture).
  • Roux, J.P. (2009) Synopsis of the Lycopodiophyta and Pteridophyta of Africa, Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Strelitzia 23, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Page 112.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta.Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Pages 88 - 89. under subsp. aquilinum
  • Tardieu-Blot, M.-L. (1964) Ptéridophytes vol.3.Flore du Cameroun, Pages 96 - 97. (Includes a picture).
  • Thardieu-Blot, M.L. (1964) Ptéridophytes vol.8.Flore du Gabon, Pages 71 - 72. (Includes a picture).
  • Verdcourt, B. (1999) Dennstaedtiaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 5 - 6. Under subsp. aquilinum