Fern, fragile

Cystopteris fragilia
A small fern found on shady ledges and rocks. The lance-shaped, twice-cut leaves are 4-12” long and are cut into about 12 pairs of leaflets. Only the first and second pairs are opposite. The leaflets are lobed into sub-leaflets, but the cut does not extend to the midline, giving the axis a “winged” appearance. The leaf stalk is dark brown to black near the root and is quite brittle - hence the “fragile” fern name. The spore cases are along the margins of the sub leaflets.

These ferns may disappear during summer dry spells, but then reappear when moisture increases in the early fall.