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Botanical implications of bracken control

Botanical journal of the Linnean Society 1976 v.73 no.1/3 pp. 285-294
Agrostis, Calluna vulgaris, Cirsium, Deschampsia flexuosa, Digitalis purpurea, Epilobium, Glyceria, Holcus mollis, Juncus effusus, Poa, Pteridium aquilinum, Rumex acetosella, Ulex, Urtica dioica, asulam, canopy, conservation areas, farms, ferns and fern allies, flora, grasses, habitats, heathlands, highlands, land management, pastures, perennials, spraying, woodlands, woody plants
In addition to bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, and other ferns, only a restricted range of species among the natural flora suffer severe damage if sprayed with asulam in late summer. Of the plants associated with bracken in relatively well-drained situations those affected most by the herbicide include the three Ulex species, Rumex acetosella, young plants of Calluna vulgaris, some Compositae and grasses of the genera Poa, Holcus and Agrostis (though not A. setacea). In damp and wet upland habitats, Cirsium palustre, Juncus effusus, Glyceria fluitans and a few other species are moderately susceptible to asulam but the majority of plants appear to be resistant or only slightly damaged. Areas from which bracken has largely been removed tend to be invaded by such species as Deschampsia flexuosa, Holcus mollis, Chamaenerion augustifolium, Digitalis purpurea and Urtica dioica. If grazing pressure is low the absence of competition enables woody species to regenerate from seed. Colonization and subsequent spread of the perennial plants is influenced by what was present as ground flora before the bracken was killed and by the depth of bracken litter. Asulam is considered to be a useful aid to the management of nature reserves where encroachment by bracken needs to be checked. Its most widespread use for bracken control is likely to be on upland farms to clear bracken from marginal land with the aim of increasing and improving pasture. Adjoining woodland and moorland habitats may suffer from resulting changes in land management. Moreover, indiscriminate aerial spraying of asulam over large areas may affect local populations of plants, notably ferns, in the more open areas not protected by a canopy of bracken.