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Nomenclature and evolutionary relationships of bracken ferns (Pteridium) world-wide

Start date:
01 Jan 2014
End date:
31 Dec 2016
John Thomson
Project sponsors:
National Herbarium of NSW Utah State University California State University (Fullerton) Massey University, Palmerston North Museum of New Zealand, Te PapaTongarewa,Wellington

Project aims

  • Understanding the origins and relationships of bracken ferns   
  • Revision and standardization of the taxonomy of the cosmopolitan genus Pteridium

Project Summary

Bracken ferns are economically and ecologically significant in many countries in relation to agriculture, forestry, wild-fire control, parkland management, land reclamation after mining etc., and in human and animal health (especially in relation to carcinogenesis). We are re-evaluating the evolutionary origins, relationships and nomenclature of all currently recognized world-wide bracken taxa using new data from: 

  • chloroplast DNA sequences
  • low copy-number nuclear genes
  • assessment of the taxonomic value of distinguishing morphological features

Research Update

  • DNA samples have been extracted from a full range of taxa
  • Matching herbarium reference specimens have been assembled
  • Amplification and sequencing of selected low-copy number nuclear genes has commenced
  • Cytological and morphometric analyses are in progress