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You will find mroe on specific ferns and brackens in the sub tabs that follow.

Also see PLANT IDENTIFICATION : index.asp?pageid=732245

As with many things on this website, plants of all kinds have been identified using the internet rather than personal expertise. This section has been particularly problematic as the illustrations on even the authoritative websites seem to include some that are erroneously labelled. EXPLORE WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE aims to guide and enthuse, but cannot be used to confirm the identity of ferns and brackens. For that it is advised that you use the weblinks provided at the end of each section.

As for ferns and brackens. Aren't they really they same thing? Well yes, and no.

The pinnate is the feather-like leafy bit that comes out of the stem. Ferns are bi-pinnate, which means that the leaflets divide twice to produce the easily recognised fronds. Bracken, on the other hand, is tri-pinnate. This means that the leaflets divide three times, giving each frond its own tiny frondlets – like a little green comb.

This description comes from a blog (link below), yet it is evident from the comments om it that this does not satisfy everyone. Even the Gardeners World forum has contradictory views. WikiDiff tries to clarify the situation, but makes it murkier by saying : As nouns the difference between bracken and fern is that bracken is any of several coarse ferns, of genus (taxlink), that forms dense thickets; often poisonous to livestock while fern is any of a group of some twenty thousand species of vascular plants classified in the division pteridophyta that lack seeds and reproduce by shedding spores to initiate an alternation of generations.So if you too are confused, don't feel alone. For our purposes here, let's use a very simplistic description. 

Bracken is the tall stuff that grows on our muirs. It appears to have branches on which the fronds appear.

Ferns are generally lower and have fronts that all appear from or near the base. It is a popular garden plant although there are some native species.

You are likely to find several species in West Dunbartonshire. The more you look the more the variety becomes aparent. You are probably aware of a few, but  astoundingly there are 37 fern species have been identified as "common" across the UK. The list can be found on the British Pteridological Society website. See link below. Of course if you are visiting gardens or even estates, you may well find even more that have been introduced. And then there may be some, such as the silverweed that look like ferns, but are not. 

Ferns are difficult to identify with accuracy, so you are advised to refer to the online sources shown below for verification or to seek specialist advice !!!

A source that explains the fern descriptive identification terminaology and thereby the structure is the US Forest Service. See the link below. This has useful diagrams. Ferns are essentially leaves. The leaves of ferns are often called fronds. Fronds are usually composed of a leafy blade and petiole (leaf stalk). Leaf shape, size, texture and degree of complexity vary considerably from species to species.

BRITISH PTERIDOLOGICAL SOCIETY website. This shows all of the "common" fer.ns in the UK.: https://ebps.org.uk/ferns/identification/key-to-common-british-native-ferns/common-native-ferns/

GARDENERS WORLD : https://forum.gardenersworld.com/discussion/1031457/ferns-or-bracken

NATURE SCOT : https://www.nature.scot/plants-animals-and-fungi/ferns/bracken

SCOTLAND GUIDE : https://www.scotlandguides.org/ferns-epiphytic-plant-in-scotland.html

SCOTLAND'S NATURE : Discussion on Gaelic names for ferns: https://scotlandsnature.blog/2015/11/24/fern-scotland/

US FOREST SERVICE : This includes interesting diagrams and illustrations with descriptions of fern structure, growth and reproduction.  : https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/beauty/ferns/structure.shtml

WIKIPEDIA : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dryopteris_filix-mas#:~:text=Its%20specific%20epithet%20filix-mas%20means%20%22male%20fern%22%20%28filix,version%20of%20the%20common%20lady%20fern%20Athyrium%20filix-femina.

WILDLIFE TRUSTS : https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/ferns-and-horsetails/bracken & https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/ferns-and-horsetails/male-fern

WIKI DIFF : https://wikidiff.com/bracken/fern?utm_content=cmp-true

WOODLAND TRUST : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants/ferns/bracken/ & https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants/ferns/hard-fern/

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