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Horse drawn bracken control

Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is an invasive, dominant and toxic plant that can create a tall, dense and unbroken canopy. At the end of each successive growth season, the bracken canopy collapses and forms a deep litter layer or ‘thatch’ which smothers and prevents the growth of other herbaceous and grass sward species.


Horse drawn bracken ‘rolling’ is an ecologically sensitive, low impact and efficient system of eradicating established areas of invasive bracken.


The methods effectiveness is based upon the horses unparalleled manoeuvrability and steady pace. These elements in turn enables the horse to work on steep areas, sites with restricted access or wooded areas where the horse is able to move between trees.


The bracken roller implement, is a simple drum roller with longitudinal metal ribs and articulated shafts, that then attach to the horse and when pulled through the bracken crushes the stem of the plant.


Bracken rolling is carried out from early June through to early August (site dependent on rate of plant growth) during the plants peak growing season. Ideally, the plant needs to be at ‘Third or Fourth Frond Stage’ of development, for optimum results.


How does it work?


As the roller passes over the bracken it flattens and crushes (‘bruises’) the stem in several places. This ‘fools’ the plant into a reactive and protective mobilisation of its resources, with sap being forced up from the rhizome (root) to help the plant recover from the damage. However, this sap then ‘bleeds’ out from the bruised stem, resulting in the rhizome being depleted of vital reserves. As a result, the plants ability to store nutrients through its dormant period and for next years’ development is reduced. The following year, bracken growth will be greatly weakened and the plant will appear stunted with a reduction in overall bracken cover.


The effects of bracken rolling are progressive and in order for the bracken to be completely eradicated, it is advisable that the process is repeated twice yearly, with first treatment in June/July (Peak Growing Season) and second in late August/early September (going into Dormant Period). It is extremely important that if a second annual treatment is undertaken, that it is completed before the plant sporulates.


It can take up to 3 years to fully eradicate well established bracken cover on some sites.


  • Chemical free

  • Scarifies the soil and creates an ideal seed bed for the regeneration of native flower, grass and tree species

  • Suppressed plants are able to grow through flattened bracken ‘thatch’

  • Breaks up the deep litter layer, speeding decay and reducing fire risk

Benefits of horse drawn bracken control

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