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Chinese brake, Chinese ladder brake, ladder brake

brake, brake fern

Habit Plants terrestrial or on rock.

stout, short-creeping, densely scaly;

scales pale brown.

erect or creeping, branched;

scales pale brown to black, concolored, elongate, margins entire.


clustered, 1–10 dm.

monomorphic, clustered or closely spaced, 1–20 dm.


green to pale brown, 1–30 cm, densely scaly;

scales dense proximally, extending to and along rachis.

straw-colored, green, brownish red to purple black, longitudinally ridged, 2–3-grooved adaxially, scaly at base, glabrous or scaly distally, with 1 (less often 2 or more) vascular bundle.


oblanceolate, 1-pinnate, (15–)25–50(–80) × (6–)13–25 cm;

rachis not winged.

oblong to lanceolate to deltate, 1–4-pinnate, herbaceous to leathery, abaxially and adaxially glabrous or sometimes pubescent or scaly, adaxially dull, not striate;

rachis straight.

Ultimate segments

of blade sessile to short-stalked, linear to oblong-lanceolate, 1.5–8 mm wide;

base truncate or narrowed to stalk, stalk when present green, not lustrous;

margins plane or reflexed to form false indusia.


numerous, separated proximally, closely spaced to barely overlapping distally, not remaining green through winter, not decurrent on rachis, not articulate to rachis, linear-lanceolate to linear-attenuate, simple, 2–18 cm × 4–9 mm;

base asymmetrically cordate to widened or truncate;

margins serrulate, prominently so near apex;

apex acuminate, attenuate, or acute;

scales of rachis grading into uniseriate hairs on abaxial costae, or hairs absent on abaxial costae;

proximal pinnae not divided or lobed.


free, forked.

in leaves conspicuous, free (except in sori) and forking well above base of segment, or highly anastomosing.

False indusia

pale, scarious, covering sori.


narrow, blade tissue exposed abaxially.


intramarginal, sori usually continuous except at pinna or segment apex and sinuses, paraphyses present.


brown, trilete, tetrahedral, rugate and/or tuberculate, usually with prominent equatorial flange.


= 29.


= 116.

Pteris vittata


Habitat Roadsides and other disturbed habitats, coastal plain
Elevation 0–50 m (0–200 ft)
from FNA
AL; CA; DC; FL; GA; LA; MS; SC; South America; West Indies; native to Asia [Introduced in North America]
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from USDA
Worldwide; warm and tropical regions
[BONAP county map]

Pteris vittata has escaped from cultivation. It is found on almost any calcareous substrate, such as old masonry, sidewalks, building crevices, and nearly every habitat in southern Florida with exposed limestone, notably pinelands. It is scattered throughout Florida and is sporadic, becoming less frequent to rare northward in the coastal plain.

Pteris vittata varies exceedingly in size, density of scales on the rachis, presence or absence of hairs on the abaxial costae, and overall color and aspect of the leaf. As a result, it may occasionally bear a resemblance to forms of P. × delchampsii W. H. Wagner & Nauman, the hybrid between P. bahamensis and P. vittata.

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

Species ca. 300 (5 species and 1 hybrid in the flora).

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

1. Veins in leaves anastomosing except sometimes near margins of ultimate segments.
P. tripartita
1. Veins in leaves entirely free.
→ 2
2. Leaves not strictly 1-pinnate, at least proximal pinnae pinnatifid-lobed or variously forked or divided.
→ 3
2. Leaves strictly 1-pinnate, pinnae not lobed or divided.
→ 4
3. Pinnae of mature leaves decurrent to relatively broad-winged rachis in at least distal 1/2 of leaf.
P. multifida
3. Pinnae of mature leaves not decurrent to relatively broad-winged rachis or only terminal pinna decurrent on rachis.
P. cretica
4. Petioles and often also rachises densely scaly, scales light to reddish, often grading into hairs on abaxial costae; pinnae appearing not articulate to rachis, apices long-attenuate or sharply acute; sori narrow, with most of abaxial blade surface exposed.
P. vittata
4. Petioles often sparsely scaly or scaly only proximally, scales dark brown to nearly black, scales absent or few on rachises, abaxial costae with or without hairs; pinnae appearing articulate to rachis, apices acute; sori broad, little or no abaxial blade tissue exposed.
P. bahamensis
Source FNA vol. 2. FNA vol. 2.
Parent taxa Pteridaceae > Pteris Pteridaceae
Sibling taxa
P. bahamensis, P. cretica, P. multifida, P. tripartita
Subordinate taxa
P. bahamensis, P. cretica, P. multifida, P. tripartita, P. vittata
Synonyms Pycnodoria vittata
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 1074. 1753, not Schkuhr. (1809) Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 1073. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed 5, 484. (1754)
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