Cystopteris protrusa

Southern fragile fern, southern brittle fern, lowland brittle fern

Epithet means "protruding."

Deciduous, 12 to 18 in. (30 to 45 cm).Zones 5 to 9.Apogamous.

description: The rhizome is creeping with, unique to the genus, golden hairs and also unique tips "protruding" beyond the current crop of fronds. Grooved green to straw-colored stipes are one-half of the frond length. Bipinnate blades are lanceolate with 6 to 12 pairs of pinnae. The species is slightly dimorphic with small and relatively coarse sterile fronds the first to emerge followed by the more delicate fertile fronds. Sori are marginal with an early deciduous hoodlike protective indusium. The species easily hybridizes with fellow locals and is one parent along with Cystopteris bulbifera of C. tennesseen-sis, and, along with an unknown ancestor, of C. tenuis.

Cystopteris protrusa in the Hudgens garden.

range and habitat: Unlike its relatives, this species prefers to settle into ordinary soil rather than limey crevices or their watery trickles. It is native to middle America (with a few disjunct sites in eastern Canada), in areas from Ohio, Minnesota, and Oklahoma eastward to the Mid-Atlantic States.

culture and comments: This species adapts and colonizes in a non-aggressive fashion in shade-protected neutral soil. It is an especially valuable choice for areas where stressful cold winters limit the available options for fern gardening, but it thrives in equally stressful hot summer climates as well.

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