Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Pteridium esculentum



Gurgi (gur-gy) to Eora people

Danger: toxic rhizomes


This hardy fern has glossy leathery fronds (leaves) mostly 0.6-1.5 m long. Spore cases are found around the edges of the underside of fronds. The fern grows from a long creeping rhizome (underground stem) 2-10 mm in diameter, which is densely covered with dark, red-brown hairs.

Where it is found

Bracken is found in all states but not in the Northern Territory. In New South Wales it occurs all along the coast, tablelands, slopes and to the south-western plains. The fern grows in open forest and regenerates quickly after burning or other disturbance. The roots and rhizomes of this plant hold the soil, while spreading fronds create a shady environment that promotes growth of seedlings.


  • Rhizomes contain starch, but must be baked or roasted first to destroy toxins (Cherikoff & Isaacs 1990).
  • Young fronds can be roasted in hot ashes and eaten.

The bracken  can be used for stings of a bull ant or a stinging nettle. If you get some of the bracken and crush it up in your hand until you see some of the sap coming out, then you’d rub it on the sting.
Ruth Simms

Further information

Click here for further information on Pteridium esculentum.

Pteridium esculentum
Rhizomes of Bracken (Pteridium esculentum), harvested in late summer, can be chewed to extract the starch but they must be roasted first to destroy the toxins. Photo: Tony Rodd.

Pteridium esculentum: frond and rhizome, underside of frond, habit.