Cystopteris fragilis

Cystopteris fragilis brittle fern

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

Small, light green fern that grows in clusters in crevices of rocks, emerging in early spring.  It may disappear in summer drought and return when moisture returns.  The stem of this fern is quite brittle and breaks easily.  Sporangia are sparse, positioned on veins on the undersides of pinnules.  Fronds disappear by late summer.

Mostly shaded cliff faces and thin soil over rock, which can be either acidic or basic.  Frequently forming small mats among moist, shaded boulders below ledges.

Range is from Newfoundland to Alaska, south to GA and AZ. Also in South and Central America, Europe, Asia, and New Zealand; almost cosmopolitan in distribution.  Ascends to 5000 feet in New Hampshire.

Wetland codes

Fronds  4 to 10 in. long; 1-3 in. wide.  Varies a great deal in appearance, can be erect arched or prostrate.

Blade  lanceolate with pointed tips, widest just below middle; variable color from light to dark green, and more or less dissected.

Pinnae  usually about 12 pairs, at right angles to rachis, opposite or nearly so; lower pinnae widely spaced.  Cutting of pinnae exceedingly variable, but usually into pinnules that are variably lobed with toothed to smooth margins.  Veins end at tip of toothed margin when present.

Rachis  smooth.

Stipe  a little shorter than blade; brittle, easily breaking off, especially near base.  Deep reddish-brown near rhizome, becoming straw-colored or green above; slender, smooth, with only a few scales near base.

Rhizome  slender, short-creeping; narrow brown scales; fronds emerging from tip of rhizome.

Sori few and scattered, located on veins.  Indusium without glandular hairs.

S-rank:  No rank
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)