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shoestring fern

Appalachian shoestring fern, Appalachian vittaria

Habit Plants epiphytic. Plants on rock.

short-creeping, branched, densely scaly;

scales brown, apex attenuate, filiform.


tapering at ends, end cells not swollen;

body cells 4–16, rhizoid primordia on each end cell, often on 1–2 medial cells.

highly variable, often with end cells swollen;

body cells 2–12, rhizoid primordia absent from medial cells, often lacking on 1 or both end cells.


10–60 cm × 1–3 mm, petioles indistinct.


protected by soral paraphyses that lack dilated terminal cells.




much branched.

sparsely to much branched.


absent or abortive, rarely formed (see discussion).


= 120.

Vittaria lineata

Vittaria appalachiana

Habitat Epiphytic, most commonly on trunks of palms (Sabal palmetto Loddiges), in moist woods and especially along streams In dark moist cavities and rock shelters in noncalcareous rocks. Occasionally epiphytic on tree bases in narrow ravines
Elevation 0–100 m (0–300 ft) 150–1800 m (500–5900 ft)
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FL; GA; Mexico; Central America; South America; West Indies
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Sporophytes, now extirpated, once occurred on rock cliffs at a single site in Lincoln County, east central Georgia. Vittaria lineata is now known outside of Florida only in Camden County, in southeastern Georgia. Gametophytes commonly form the dominant cover on moist logs and tree trunks, especially the bases of Sabal palmetto palms, within the range of the sporophyte. Such populations usually contain numerous small, sexually produced sporophytes.

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

Dense colonies of Vittaria appalachiana coat rock surfaces in deeply sheltered habitats throughout the Appalachian Mountains and plateau. Abortive, apogamously produced embryos and small sporophytes with leaves less than 5 mm have been collected from one site in Ohio and have been produced from gametophytes in culture on two occasions. The largest of these produced simple, linear leaves and clathrate rhizome scales typical of Vittariaceae. Starch gel enzyme electrophoresis patterns, as well as morphology, distinguish these plants from other American species. Enzyme electrophoresis patterns and a somatic chromosome number of 120 (G. J. Gastony 1977) suggest that the plants are diploid and possibly of hybrid origin. Fixation of different genotypes in different sections of the range indicates an ancient origin of the independent gametophytes, possibly through Pleistocene elimination of the sporophyte generation (D. R. Farrar 1990).

A distinctive morphologic characteristic of Vittaria appalachiana is the variability displayed in gemma production, often including forms intermediate between gemmae and their supporting gemmifer cells and abortive "gemmae" arrested in early stages of development. This is in contrast to the remarkably regular pattern of gemma production in other species (D. R. Farrar 1978; E. S. Sheffield and D. R. Farrar 1988).

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

Source FNA vol. 2. FNA vol. 2.
Parent taxa Vittariaceae > Vittaria Vittariaceae > Vittaria
Sibling taxa
V. appalachiana, V. graminifolia
V. graminifolia, V. lineata
Synonyms Pteris lineata
Name authority (Linnaeus) Smith Farrar & Mickel: Amer. Fern J. 81: 72. (1991)
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