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Connecticut Plants
Smooth Cliffbrake
Pellaea glabella Mett. ex Kuhn

Smooth cliffbrake is endangered in Connecticut.

  • Family: maidenhair fern (Pteridaceae)
  • Habitat: limestone cliffs and ledges
  • Height: fronds 2-8 inches long
  • Location of spores: undersides of fronds
  • Petiole (leaf stalk): smooth or only slightly hairy; thin and wiry; glossy dark brown
  • Growth pattern: asymmetric clump
  • Persistence: evergreen
  • Origin: native
Pellaea glabella Mett. ex Kuhn
Pellaea glabella Mett. ex Kuhn
Pellaea glabella Mett. ex Kuhn

Underside of a smooth cliffbrake frond. The spores form under the rolled edges of the leaf.

Pellaea glabella Mett. ex Kuhn

Smooth cliffbrake can look quite similar to purple-stemmed cliffbrake. To distinguish them, look at the rachis -- the wiry stalk in the middle of the frond. The rachis of smooth cliffbrake is hairless or very nearly so; the rachis of purple cliffbrake is quite hairy.

Pellaea glabella Mett. ex Kuhn

Fronds of the two cliffbrakes, for comparison. Purple cliffbrake (top) tends to be larger than smooth cliffbrake, though the size difference is not always as great as it is here.