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Cheilanthes feei

Cheilanthes feei

Cheilanthes feei

Cheilanthes feei

Cheilanthes feei
Myriopteris gracilis. Synonym: Cheilanthes feei. (Slender Lip Fern)
Pteridaceae (Maidenhair Fern Family).
Synonyms: Cheilanthaceae, Polypodiaceae.

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Rocks. Spring.
Left and above top and second: Squaw Creek, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, April 12, 2005. Above third and fourth: Side Canyon of Comb Wash, Utah, October 28, 2013.

Myriopteris gracilis has leaf blades from one-to-five inches long and one-half-to-two inches wide. These triangular leaves are divided into leaflets and these leaflets are divided again with the ultimate segments bulbous.

The rhizomes produce numerous leaves thus making the plant noticeable. The leaves are densely hairy. New leaves are light green; older leaves are dark green with some leaflets drying and dying red. Especially as shown in the first and the third photographs above, dead stems are persistent. 

For more photographs and detailed descriptions, see Dan Tenaglia's excellent Missouri Plants and the Flora of North America

Myriopteris gracilis was first collected for science by the eminent botanist, George Engelmann, in Hillsboro, Missouri, around 1850 and was at first named Myriopteris gracilis by Antoine Fee (19th century French botanist) about 1850.  In 1857 Thomas Moore moved the plant to the Cheilanthes genus, which was named by Olof Swartz.

In the Flora of North America Windham and Rabe call this genus Cheilanthes, but in 2013 a number of years after that treatment was published in the FNA, Gruz and Windham published "Toward a monophyletic Cheilanthes: The resurrection and re-circumscription of Myriopteris(Pteridaceae)". Their "Abstract" reads as follows:

The fern genus Cheilanthes (Pteridaceae) has perplexed taxonomists for more than two centuries. Complex patterns of evolution involving rampant morphological convergence, polyploidy, hybridization, and apomixis have made the taxonomy of this group especially difficult. Fortunately, recent phylogenetic analyses have helped to clarify relationships among cheilanthoid taxa. Based on these findings, we here formalize an updated taxonomy for one monophyletic clade comprising 47 primarily North and Central American taxa usually included in Cheilanthes. Because the type species of Cheilanthes (Cheilanthes micropteris) is only distantly related to this clade, we resurrect the genus Myriopteris to accommodate these taxa, and present a revised circumscription for the group, including 36 new combinations.

Cheilanthes feei Cheilanthes feei

Cheilanthes feei Cheilanthes feei

Myriopteris gracilis. Synonym: Cheilanthes feei. (Slender Lip Fern)
Pteridaceae (Maidenhair Fern Family)
. Synonyms: Cheilanthaceae, Polypodiaceae.

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Rocks. Spring.
Side Canyon of Comb Wash, Utah, October 28, 2013.

The photographs at left show the upper, green side of the leaf and the lower, brown side of the leaf. The leaf is long, triangular, hairy, and divided into leaflets, each of which is again divided into puffy, rotund segments.

The brown of the leaflet backside is due to the bulbous sori (clusters of sporangia, the spore bearing structures). These sori are numerous and continuous along the margin of the underside of the leaflets. The sori are so numerous and so near the margin that they can sometime be seen from the upper (green) side of the leaflet, as the bottom left photograph shows.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Cheilanthes feei

Range map for Myriopteris gracilis