Connecticut Plants
Purple-stemmed Cliffbrake
Pellaea atropurpurea (L.) Link

In Connecticut, purple-stemmed cliffbrake is common only in limestone regions of the northwest corner.

  • Family: maidenhair fern (Pteridaceae)
  • Habitat: dry, limestone-rich cliffs & outcroppings
  • Height: fronds 4-12 inches long
  • Location of spores: undersides of fertile leaflets
  • Petiole (leaf stalk): thin, wiry, and hairy, especially on the upper surface; dark purple or red
  • Growth pattern: asymmetric clump
  • Persistence: evergreen
  • Origin: native
Pellaea atropurpurea (L.) Link
Pellaea atropurpurea (L.) Link

Underside of a frond, showing the spores at the edges of the leaflets.

Pellaea atropurpurea (L.) Link

Purple-stemmed cliffbrake can look quite similar to smooth cliffbrake. To distinguish them, look at the rachis -- the wiry stalk in the middle of the frond. The rachis of purple-stemmed cliffbrake is covered with hairs, while the smooth cliffbrake rachis is hairless or very nearly so.