Cystopteris bulbifera (L.) Bernh.

bulblet fragile fern

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Bulblet fragile fern is gets its name from, and can be distinguished by, the small, green bulblets that form on the underside of the pinnae (leaflets). They can drop off the plant and germinate to form a new plant.

Habitat

Cliffs, balds, or ledges, ridges or ledges, talus and rocky slopes

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
Leaf divisions
the leaf blade is twice compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets)
Plant growth form
the leaves grow from a rhizome growing at or below the ground
Spore-bearing leaflets
the spore-bearing fronds are similar in size and shape to the sterile fronds
Sorus shape
the sori are circular or kidney-shaped
Leaf stalk scales
the leaf stalk has scales
Leaf stalk hairs
the leaf stalk has hairs
Leaf blade length
25–45 cm
Leaf vein tips
the veins go all the way to the edge of the leaf blade
Show All Characteristics
  • Growth form
    Life form
    the plant is herbaceous and terrestrial
    Life stage
    the plant is visible as a typical leaf-bearing fern (sporophyte)
    Spore-bearing leaflets
    the spore-bearing fronds are similar in size and shape to the sterile fronds
  • Leaves
    Features of leaves
    there are small bulbs on the underside of the leaf blade
    Leaf blade length
    25–45 cm
    Leaf blade shape
    the leaf blades are roughly triangular
    Leaf blade width
    At least 6 cm
    Leaf divisions
    the leaf blade is twice compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets)
    Leaf lifespan
    the leaves drop off in winter
    Leaf stalk color
    • green
    • yellow to brown
    Leaf stalk hairs
    the leaf stalk has hairs
    Leaf stalk length
    50–215 mm
    Leaf stalk relative length
    the leaf stalk is more than a quarter, but less than three quarters as long as the blade
    Leaf stalk scale location
    the scales are present only on the lower half of the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk scales
    the leaf stalk has scales
    Leaf stalk vessels
    2 bundles
    Leaf vein branching
    the secondary veins of the leaf blade branch dichotomously (two equal branches at each branch point)
    Leaf vein tips
    the veins go all the way to the edge of the leaf blade
    Leaflet relative size
    the bottom leaflets are about half as long as, to slightly longer than, the leaflets from the middle of the frond
    Leaflet stalks
    • the leaflets are stalked
    • the leaflets do not have stalks
    Lobe or leaflet length
    22–103 mm
    Lobe or leaflet pairs
    20–40
    Lobe or leaflet shape
    • the lobe or leaflet is rectangular but with rounded ends (oblong)
    • the lobe or leaflet is widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends; egg-shaped
    Lobe or leaflet width
    10–45 mm
    Plant growth form
    the leaves grow from a rhizome growing at or below the ground
    final leaf segment margin
    • the topmost lobe or leaflet of the leaf blade has a smooth or lobed edge
    • the topmost lobe or leaflet of the leaf blade has an edge with teeth
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • ridges or ledges
    • talus or rocky slopes
  • Spores or spore cones
    Sorus features
    the indusium of the sorus has glands on stalks (stipitate glands)
    Sorus shape
    the sori are circular or kidney-shaped
    Sporangia location
    the spores are clustered on sori on the lower surface of the leaf blade
    Sporangium type
    the sporangia are opaque without an annulus and usually without a stalk (leptosporangiate)
    Spore forms
    there is only one type of spore present

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACW)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
fairly widespread (S-rank: S4)
New Hampshire
uncommon (S-rank: S3), W (code: W)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Cystopteris laurentiana:
leaf blade ovate to narrow-ovate, bulbils only rarely present, and leaf rachis with sparse glandular hairs (vs. C. bulbifiera, with leaf blade triangular to long-triangular, bulbils frequently present, and leaf rachis usually with dense glandular hairs).

Synonyms

  • Filix bulbifera (L.) Underwood
  • Polypodium bulbiferum L.

Family

Woodsiaceae

Genus

Cystopteris

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Cystopteris bulbifera (L.) Bernh. N

bulbil fragile fern. Filix bulbifera (L.) Underwood; Polypodium bulbiferum L. • CT, MA, ME, NH, 
 RI, VT. On rock or thin soil over high-pH substrate.