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Cyanide protects from herbivores: brackenfern


Pteridium aquilinum leaf / Kenraiz / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

Bracken protects its leaves from being eaten by filling them with cyanide.

"Bracken, that most widespread of ferns in Britain, fills its young tender leaves with cyanide. That deters most insects...By the time the leaves are mature and so tough that they seem likely to be of interest only to larger grazers such as rabbits and deer, they have manufactured a cocktail of toxins so powerful that they can cause blindness and cancer in mammals." (Attenborough 1995:70)
About the inspiring organism
Med_800pxpteridium_leaf_kz1 Pteridium aquilinum
Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn
Common name: Brackenfern

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Biological pest control product. Preventative or antidote for cyanide poisoning.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Agriculture

Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.
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over 6 years ago
Thanks to Duarte Miguel Prazeres for finding and uploading this photo.
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