Brake / Maiden-hair Family

Goldback Fern © DSchiel

Pteridaceae (ter-id-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Stalks usually dark and wiry
  • Fronds 2-pinnate or more
  • Sori usually hidden under frond margin

Description (Jepson)

  • Ferns (Polypodiopsida)
    • An early group of vascular plants that produce spores (reproductive cells)
      • Produce no flowers or seeds
      • Fossil records date back almost 400 million years, versus 130 million years for flowering plants
  • Perennial herbs
    • Grow from creeping or erect rhizomes (horizontal underground stems)
  • Fronds (leaves)
    • Almost always compound (divided into leaflets), with 1-6 levels of division (1-6 pinnate)
    • Young fronds uncurl from tight spirals called fiddleheads
    • Stalks (petioles) generally dark and wiry
  • Sori
    • Sori (singular: sorus) are clusters of spore-producing, sac-like structures called sporangia (singular: sporangium)
    • Located usually in the curled-under margins of leaflets, sometimes along veins
    • Have no indusium (plural: indusia), a tissue flap sometimes covering immature sori


  • Approximately 500 species worldwide
    • Includes maiden-hair, brake, and lace ferns
  • Scientific name from the included genus Pteris, from the Greek for “fern”
  • Common name from the Scandinavian for “bracken,” a coarse fern
  • Represented by 3 species at Edgewood
  • Edgewood has 7 fern species in 4 plant families

See General References

Specific References

American Fern Society. About Ferns.

U.S. Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture. What Are Ferns?.

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