Smooth Cliffbrake, Pellaea glabella
Pteridaceae or Bracken Family
A small, rock-loving fern with highly variable leaves, even on the same plant. The leaves are divided into leaflets that may be almost round to long and narrow, and may have lobes at the base. Sometimes the leaflets are divided into subleaflets; sometimes only the lower ones are divided. The leafstalks are brown to red-brown to purple-brown and smooth. Reddish-brown spore cases (sori) outline the undersides of some leaves (the fertile leaves). The plant is evergreen and can be found year-round.
A somewhat rare native fern that likes limestone rocks in shady woods.
Rare in Wildwood; so far known only from one rock.
The wiry brown leaf stalk and general look of the leaves is distinctive for a fern. The habit of growing in cracks in rocks is a key characteristic. The plant is therefore unlikely to be confused with anything else. Purple-stemmed cliffbrake is large, up to two feet long with a purplish-black leafstalk. It has not been reported from the Park, but it would not be a surprise to find it.