RL4 – Bracken

Bracken is abundant in the Highlands. It is seen as a scourge, since sheep, cattle and horses won’t eat it.

Let’s look at the ecological niche it naturally occupies. Surprisingly perhaps, it is a woodland plant, yet can only grow if there is a gap in the canopy, for it needs plenty of light, so you’ll find it in glades and and wood pastures.

It grows on good land where there were once trees, and could easily be trees again. This is where rewilding comes in. By choosing the right mix of grazing/rooting animals, scrub and, later, woodland, could return to these areas.

Pigs (or wild boar) and cattle can easily get rid of it, allowing seedlings of native trees and shrubs to flourish. The former root it out, the latter trample it and damage the tender rhizomes.

These pigs got rid of the bracken in this walled garden in 2 days!

Scrub is great for biodiversity and the animals bring in an income. Rare, tough, native breeds are best and are capable of looking after themselves.

The same can be done with areas “infested” with gorse.

About edwardtyler

I live in Kintyre, the long peninsula acting as a natural breakwater for the Firth of Clyde, west of Glasgow. A Permaculture and Transition practitioner, I am working with fellow community activists to co-create a resilient and vibrant local bioregion.

2 comments

  1. ditaviz

    Thank you! I’m finding bracken very useful in keeping the local temperature down and thus allowing for a much more diverse meadow. When seen as part of an ecological succession, I feel that it loses some of its “scourginess”. I’d love to know more about how the spot you treated with pigs has done! I’m in a place where pigs are being used for rewilding, with great results! Keep the good work! Thanks!!!

    • edwardtyler

      I have not used pigs myself but my friend and neighbour Neil has kept pigs for a number of years now in his walled garden. They’ve got rid of bracken and even Japanese knotweed!
      As for pigs and rewilding, I’ve seen them in a fenced -off wooded area and they were very effective – but there were only a few of them. Too many and they’ll turn over the ground too much I think.

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