Thursday, November 20, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #24 In A Series



Pteridium, known commonly as bracken, is a type of fern that has been so successful at adapting itself to a variety of climates it grows on every continent except Antarctica. The plant sends up large fronds from underground rootstock. The largest fronds can grow to be 8 feet tall, but more commonly they grow to be 2-6 feet tall. An herbaeceous perennial, this fern is deciduous in the winter.

Although the plant is carcinogenic to many animals, the unfurled fronds are eaten in a number of cultures. The unfurled fronds are called fiddleheads and can be eaten raw, cooked or dried in the sun, pickled or salted. American Indians cooked the rhizomes and peeled and ate them, or pounded them into flour.

You may want to hesitate before introducing this California native into your home garden, as it can be incredibly invasive, easily sending shoots up two feet away from the main plant. It is not easily contained.

The photograph shows tightly curled bracken fiddleheads.

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