Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE5.3 Pteridium aquilinum stand

Pteridium aquilinum stand

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE5.3
Threat status
Europe Least Concern
EU Least Concern
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


In the humid regions of Europe bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) may form species-poor 1 to 2 meter high stands on deeper, acidic to neutral, well drained, well aerated and poor to relatively fertile soils. The associated species assemblage may vary depending on the context in which the bracken stands develop, particularly with the acidity and fertility of the soil and the density of the cover of fronds. On less acid soils, the herbaceous associates may be those of mesotrophic grasslands and it may be mixed with bramble species (Rubus), scattered scrubs (Crataegus, Prunus) or trees (Fraxinus, Quercus) , forming transitions towards Red List scrubs F3.1b and F3.1e. In other cases it may contain components of heath or acidic grassland, for example Vaccinium myrtillus, Galium saxatile, Potentilla erecta or Anthoxanthum odoratum.

Bracken is probably naturally a forest fern held in check by the shade of a canopy of trees and shrubs but it is found as this habitat in forest gaps and clearings, along forest margins, in heathlands, in drained bog areas, on burnt sites, being a component of agricultural or heathland areas and rarely occurring also in coastal dunes. Bracken can colonise open ground in such habitats by spore dispersal, but this is a relatively rare phenomenon. More usually the species expands from existing populations by vegetative rhizome spread, slowly forming larger clonal stands. Once established the species creates a hostile environment for other plants, by producing dense summer shade and large amounts of slowly-rotting litter. The result is a relatively species-poor habitat, not considered of high value from a nature conservation point-of-view. In many cases it is rather considered as a threat to other habitats, like grasslands and heathlands, developing as a result of abandonment of traditional management in which it was often cut and used as bedding for farm animals and also held in check by trampling of cattle.

The main distribution covers the Atlantic and Subatlantic lowlands and mountains of Europe, being most widespread in Ireland, the British Isles and Brittany (France). Further eastwards Pteridium aquilinum is mainly restricted to the humid microclimate of forests. More species-rich tall herb stands dominated by this species are widespread but not very common, and mostly confined to temperate mountains. In boreal and warm Mediterranean regions the conditions are less optimal for the habitat to develop.

Indicators of good quality:

  • Being part of a landscape mosaic with heathlands, forests and grasslands
  • No co-dominance of trees and shrubs

Characteristic species
For full habitat description, please download the habitat factsheet.

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

This habitat type is not endangered in either EU28 or EU28+.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • No threats or pressures
    • No threats or pressures

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat type is generally favoured by human interaction like overgrazing, mining and other disturbances that offers free space to Pteridium aquilinum. When Pteridium fields are damaged, they are able to recover the lost terrain rather easily and quickly,

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Increasing Increasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

When established, Pteridium aquilinum is able to overwhelm the surrounding vegetation, even at the landscape level. This is happening at a large scale in the Atlantic regions of Europe, where measures are being taken to remove the stands of this habitat type instead of supporting it.

List of conservation and management needs

  • No measures
    • No measures needed for the conservation of the habitat/species


For each habitat a distribution map was produced from a wide variety of sources indicating known and potential occurrences of the habitat in 10x10 km grids within Europe. Occurrences in grid cells were given in two classes: actual distribution from relatively reliable sources (surveys, expert knowledge), and potential distribution based on models or less reliable indicators. Please download the fact sheet to see the map.

Geographic occurrence and trends

EU28 Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Bulgaria Present - -
Austria Present - -
Belgium Present 5 Stable Stable
Croatia Present 240 Stable Increasing
Czech Republic Present 10 Stable Stable
Denmark Present - -
Estonia Present - -
France mainland Present 2000 Unknown Increasing
Corsica Present 2000 Unknown Increasing
Germany Present - -
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present - -
Lithuania Present 1.5 Unknown Decreasing
Luxembourg Present - -
Netherlands Present 6 Stable Increasing
Poland Present Stable -
Portugal mainland Present 217 Unknown Increasing
Romania Present - -
Slovakia Present - -
Slovenia Present - -
Spain mainland Present - -
Balearic Islands Present - -
Sweden Present - -
United Kingdom Present 3700 Stable Decreasing
Latvia Present 3 Unknown Unknown
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Albania Present 10 Increasing Increasing
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 40 Stable Increasing
Kaliningrad Present - -
Kosovo Present - -
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present - -
Montenegro Present - -
Norway Mainland Present - -
Serbia Present - -
Switzerland Present 70 Stable Increasing

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 6961650 1611 6573 AOO and EOO incl. potential distribution
EU28+ 2180 6683 AOO and EOO incl. potential distribution
AOO = the area occupied by a habitat measured in number of 10x10 km grid cells.
EOO = the area (km2) of the envelope around all occurrences of a habitat (calculated by a minimum convex polygon).

Characteristic species

Not available

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

Not available
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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