Bracken Whipping

Published by timwilley on

Bracken can dominate a new plantation, outcompeting young saplings and collapsing onto tree guards in autumn bringing them to the ground.

There is plenty of evidence that crushing the bracken stems with a tractor-driven roller shuts down the bracken rhizome over time. This is backed up by the fact, that even a moderately used path through dense bracken will dramatically subdue the following year’s growth and the path becomes clearer, year on year.

Tractor rolling isn’t a practical option when you have a network of young trees amongst the bracken, so whipping is the only option. Basically, it’s about hitting the tops of the newly unfurling stems with a stout stick (hazel is good) and repeating until the bracken gives up the fight.

However, I’m not sure of its complete effectiveness, so I have set aside four areas for a controlled experiment. It is quite satisfying when it goes well – you can decapitate a dozen stems with a good, well-placed swing. But it does make your arm ache and looks a bit weird to onlookers. That’s why my control areas are well away from the footpath!

Before
After
Whipped Stems