Bracken close-up in woodland Loch Maree / Glas Leitir. (file ref. K33-18). 2001/02 © John MacPherson/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or


Bracken is our most widespread large fern species, covering large areas of Scotland’s moors and uplands.

Bracken Control - New restrictions on Emergency Authorisation issued for Asulam

An Emergency Authorisation has been granted to allow the use of Asulam to undertake bracken control from 1st July to 14th September 2020 but the approval for this year contains new restrictions. 

Application of Asulam is restricted to helicopters only and the width of the buffer zone to protect surface water bodies has been increased from 50m to 90m. Any ground-based applications of asulam are NOT authorised this season.

The Bracken Control Group (BCG), with input from SNH, Natural England and Natural Resource Wales, has submitted an additional Emergency Authorisation application requesting that ground-based applications are permitted and reinstating the original 50m buffer zone. This is currently being processed by the Chemicals Regulation Division, but the outcome will not be known until the middle of June. 

If you are undertaking bracken treatment through an agri-environment (AECS) contract or SNH Management agreement, you must ensure that you are following the appropriate guidance for treatment this year. Full details of any changes will be available on the BCG website.

If the current restrictions are not amended, preventing ground based treatment using asulam this year and your AECS contract includes Bracken control requiring ground treatment using chemical means in 2020, please contact your AECS case officer in July for further advice.

Similarly, if you have an SNH Management Agreement requiring ground based chemical treatment of bracken in 2020, please contact your local SNH contact to discuss.

Bracken is a remarkably successful example of this ancient group of plants. You can even find it in the tropics.

But bracken has become a problem plant in some parts of Scotland since it stopped being harvested widely for uses such as livestock bedding and thatching.

Changes to grazing and burning management may have also contributed to the rapid expansion of bracken.

Innovative new uses for bracken – e.g. as part of compost mixes – could help to solve the bracken invasion problem in tandem with good burning practice.

Protection of bracken

Discover how Scotland’s wild plants and fungi are protected.