Is it a fern?

A few of this plant is growing in our front yard. Though the leaves look like fern they don't grow like a fern. You can the small ones that just sprouted in the background.

  • Almost surely that is a bracken fern. Your problem are those ivy in the background. They are a major 'weed' and tough to restrict. Send a picture to include more of your landscape. Bracken fern is fine to eat as long as you eat the 'fiddles'...never the more mature leaves. I wouldn't eat any of it unless starving in the wilderness. Could be another kind of fern but would need more pictures. Where is it that you live?
    – stormy
    Apr 4, 2016 at 21:07
  • I live in Bellevue WA. Is it a weed? USDA is classifying it as a weed (plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=PTAQ).
    – yasouser
    Apr 4, 2016 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


I'd say this is definitely Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). It's an invasive pest and is known to have allelopathic effects on some surrounding plants, which is how it so readily colonizes an area. Difficult to control, if you need to, it has extremely thick, brownish black underground stems that can and do travel long distances. Some information in the link below, but its from the RHS, based in the UK - you will need to check what treatments are available in your own area, if you wish to control it. As a point of interest, there are higher rates of cancer in individuals who are constantly in a bracken ridden environment, perhaps working in woods where there's plenty of it, etc, though the risk is no higher than anywhere else for people who are simply visiting or passing through occasionally.


  • Thanks for the wildflowerfinder.org link. It has some interesting (medical) facts about Bracken.
    – yasouser
    Apr 4, 2016 at 22:38
  • Some areas in the uk have been quite successful in controlling this by using a spiked roller dragged behind a horse. Bracken tends to be a pest in the less inhabited moorlands and upland areas, so heavier equipment isn't an option, but a horse is.
    – user13638
    Apr 5, 2016 at 6:44
  • @Stephie, just checked and the rhs link is still working, but the other one no longer exists, so I've taken it off
    – Bamboo
    May 30, 2016 at 21:40

Bracken fern in the forest is early successional (first plant after disturbance) and very indicative of a previous fire or major ground disturbance. Out in the open - I don't know. I would not eat this unless my stomach had grown experienced in digesting heavy strong-fibrous plants.

N.B - In all ferns, the fronds do not grow, they "unroll" after ripening while coiled.


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