Woodsia alpina — northern cliff fern
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New England distribution
Adapted from BONAP data
Non-native: introduced (intentionally or unintentionally); has become naturalized.
County documented: documented to exist in the county by evidence (herbarium specimen, photograph). Also covers those considered historical (not seen in 20 years).
State documented: documented to exist in the state, but not documented to a county within the state. Also covers those considered historical (not seen in 20 years).
Note: when native and non-native populations both exist in a county, only native status is shown on the map.
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Northern cliff fern is a rare fern from high-pH cliffs in Maine and Vermont. Petioles are red-brown to purple near the base, which helps to separate some individuals from the closely-related smooth cliff fern (Woodsia glabella) with green or yellow-brown petiole bases.
Cliffs, balds, or ledges, ridges or ledges
- New England state
- Features of leaves
- there are no special features on the leaves
- New England state
- Specific habitat
- cliffs, balds, or ledges
- ridges or ledges
New England distribution and conservation status
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.
- extremely rare (S-rank: S1), threatened (code: T)
- extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
Native to North America?
Sometimes confused with
- Woodsia glabella:
- leaves without scales, basal leaflets flabellate, leaf blades 1–1.2 cm wide, and petioles green to light brown (vs. W. alpina, with plants with hairs, scales, and/or stalked glands, basal leaflets narrow-ovate to triangular, leaf blades 0.5-2.5 cm wide, and petioles brown to dark brown).
- Woodsia ilvensis:
- leaflets with scales on the abaxial surface, the larger leaflets with 4–7 pairs of leafules, and indusium composed of many filaments (vs. W. alpina, with leaflets glabrous or nearly so on the abaxial surface, though scales may be present on the rachis and costae, the larger leaflets with 2 or 3 pairs of leafules, and indusium composed of few filaments).
- Acrostichum alpinum Bolton
- Woodsia alpina (Bolton) S.F. Gray var. bellii Lawson
- Woodsia glabella R. Br. ex Richards. var. bellii (Lawson) Lawson
From the dichotomous key of Flora Novae Angliae
1. Woodsia alpina (Bolton) S.F. Gray NC
northern cliff fern. Acrostichum alpinum Bolton; Woodsia alpina (Bolton) S.F. Gray var. bellii Lawson; W. glabella R. Br. ex Richards. var. bellii (Lawson) Lawson • ME, VT; also reported from NH by Windham (1993b), but specimens are unknown. High-pH rock of cliffs. An allotetraploid derived from Woodsia glabella and W. ilvensis. Forms of this species with relatively few scales and hairs are sometimes confused with W. glabella. They can be separated by their petioles that are red-brown to purple near the base (vs. green or yellow-brown throughout in W. glabella).
1×3. Woodsia alpina × Woodsia ilvensis → Woodsia ×gracilis (Lawson) Butters is a rare, abortive-spored hybrid known from ME, VT . Compared with W. alpina, this hybrid fern tends to be larger, with more hairs and scales, and with leaflets more divided and with more pairs of leafules (often more than 3). Compared with W. ilvensis, this nothospecies tends to be smaller, with fewer hairs and scales, and with leaflets less divided.