Cheilanthes gracillima Lace fern

Epithet means "very slender."

description: The rhizome is very short-creeping, producing tidy rosettes of glistening blue-green, horizontal fronds. The shiny stipes of up to one-half of the frond length are burnt cinnamon with an occasional tan scale. The lanceolate blades are bipinnate with 10 to 12 pairs of pinnae. A thick blanket of tan and white scales and hairs protects the frond's lower surface.

Sori with a false indusium are continuous around the pinna margins.

range and habitat: This species is native to the mountains of western Washington as well as the surrounding states and Canada. It grows on rocky outcrops (with one very special floral-covered promontory, "Penstemon rock" in the We-natchee Mountains of Washington State being a favorite of my children from the time they were able, as youngsters, to join in the delights of discovering plants in the wild). It is strictly an alpine, growing in full light for the summer and then retiring under the snow for winter. The substrate can vary, but most populations are on igneous rocks.

culture and comments: This Cheilanthes can be introduced to lowland gardens by paying careful attention to the requirements for good drainage and by providing soil that is not overly rich. My pride-and-joy specimen has been in a low 2-in. (5-cm) high bonsai pot with huge drainage holes for four years. No fertilizer, no mulch, and nothing other than filtered sunshine have been offered for encouragement. A container planting is recommended.

Var. aberrans is an apparent hybrid between C. gracillima and C. intertexta, which is believed to be a hybrid between C. covillei and C gracillima.

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