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Connecticut Plants
Fragile Fern (Brittle Fern)
Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh.

Fragile fern is very similar to slender fragile fern; until recently, they were considered to be varieties of the same species. In Connecticut, fragile fern probably occurs only in the most northern parts of the state. Where they both occur, they can be quite difficult to distinguish. See the Flora of North America Cystopteris fragilis page for a discussion of the differences.

  • Family: cliff fern (Woodsiaceae)
  • Habitat: rich woodlands, esp. on exposed rocky surfaces
  • Height: fronds 5-12 inches long
  • Location of spores: undersides of leaflets
  • Petiole (leaf stalk): Slender, smooth with a few scales near base. Dark brown/black at base becoming yellow or green above.
  • Growth pattern: asymmetric clump
  • Persistence: deciduous
  • Origin: native
Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh.
Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh.
Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh.

Fragile fern is a small fern with weak stems. This fern is letting its fronds flop down the rock face that it grows on.

Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh.

Fragile fern growing with wild leek in Mackinac County, Michigan.