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Cretan brake, Cretan brake fern, ribbon fern

giant brake


slender, creeping, sparingly scaly;

scales dark brown to chestnut brown.

stout, short-creeping, densely and conspicuously scaly;

scales pale brown.


clustered to closely spaced, to 1 m. Petiole straw-colored to light brown distally, darker proximally, 10–50 cm, base sparsely scaly.

clustered, 1–2 m. Petiole straw-colored to brownish red, to more than 1 m, scaly proximally, otherwise glabrous at maturity.


irregularly ovate, primarily and irregularly pedately divided, 10–30 × 6–25 cm;

rachis not winged;

only terminal pinna decurrent on rachis.

deltate to pentagonal, pedate, ultimate divisions pinnately divided, 1–2 × 1–2 m;

rachis not winged.

Ultimate segments

of blade numerous, linear-oblong to linear-lanceolate, to 19 × 6 mm, margins entire or serrulate, apex obtuse and rounded to acute;

terminal segments 3–4 cm longer and more tapering than lateral segments.


1–3 pairs, well separated, blade often 5-parted with terminal pinna and 2 lateral pairs of pinnae remaining green through winter, not articulate;

sterile pinnae to 25 × 0.8–1.5 cm, serrulate;

fertile pinnae narrower than sterile pinnae, to ca. 11 mm wide, spiny-serrate;

base acute acroscopically and decurrent (sometimes narrowly and barely so) basiscopically, glabrous;

proximal pinnae with 1 (rarely 2) basiscopic lobes.

few, closely spaced, remaining green through winter, not decurrent on rachis, not articulate to rachis, oblong-lanceolate, 1–3-forked, to 7 × 6 dm;

base asymmetrical, acute;

apex acute;

rachis and costae glabrate or with minute hairs, especially near axils of proximal pinnae; penultimate pinnules linear to linear-lanceolate, pinnatifid, separated, not remaining green through winter, not articulate to rachis.


free, simple or forked.

anastomosing near costae and costules, becoming forked and free near margins of ultimate segments.


narrow, blade tissue exposed abaxially.

narrow, blade tissue exposed abaxially.

Pteris cretica

Pteris tripartita

Habitat Terrestrial in cypress, pond-apple, and other swamps or forested wet habitats, on constantly moist, circumneutral soils
Elevation 0–50 m (0–200 ft)
from FNA
FL; LA; Widely scattered in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from FNA
FL; Central America; South America; West Indies; native to tropical Asia [Introduced, naturalized in scattered locations]
[BONAP county map]

Pteris cretica is almost pantropical in distribution (C. V. Morton 1957). Because this species is so commonly and widely cultivated and appears to escape easily in warmer regions, its native range is uncertain.

Young leaves of young plants of Pteris multifida may key to P. cretica because only the terminal pinnae may be decurrent on the rachis as in P. cretica. Juveniles of P. multifida can be separated by proximal pinnae with long-attenuate apices and thinner-textured leaves than P. cretica. Juveniles of P. cretica have proximal pinnae with acute to blunt or nearly rounded apices and thicker-textured leaves.

Varieties 2 (2 in the flora).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Pinnae green throughout.
var. cretica
1. Pinnae with broad, white, central stripe.
var. albolineata
Source FNA vol. 2. FNA vol. 2.
Parent taxa Pteridaceae > Pteris Pteridaceae > Pteris
Sibling taxa
P. bahamensis, P. multifida, P. tripartita, P. vittata
P. bahamensis, P. cretica, P. multifida, P. vittata
Subordinate taxa
P. cretica var. albolineata, P. cretica var. cretica
Synonyms Pycnodoria cretica Litobrochia tripartita
Name authority Linnaeus: Mant. Pl. 130. (1767) Swartz: J. Bot. (Schrader) 1800(2): 67. (1801)
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