E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh.
fragile fern (brittle bladderfern)
Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #20472)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Cystopteris fragilis
Click here to view our interactive map and legend
Details about map content are available here
Click on the map dots to view record details.

Species Information

Click on the image below to view an expanded illustration for this species.

Deciduous perennial arising in clusters from a short, creeping rhizome.
Thin, broadly lanceolate or egg-shaped, 5-45 cm long, 3-10 cm wide, smooth, seldom finely glandular, 2- to 3-pinnate, ultimate segments fan-like, toothed towards the tips.
A variable species, which in this concept includes both plants with spiny spores (C. fragilis sensu stricto) and those with warty spores. Plants with warty spores were segregated in Europe as C. dickieana. Ceska & Ceska (unpubl.) found that our populations with warty spores are not uniform in other characters and agree with C. Haufler that "some of the American material ... may not be conspecific with material from the type locality of C. dickieana." (Lellinger 1985, p. 260).

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Dry to moist rocks, talus slopes, crevices, ledges, and forest margins from the lowland and steppe to alpine zones; common throughout BC; cosmopolitan, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF, and S to ME, NH, PA, NC, IL, KS, NM, AZ and CA; Eurasia, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, S America, Antarctic Islands.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Cystopteris fragilis

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 1051 2562
Slope Gradient (%) 0 40 140
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 194 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(17), BAFA(3), BG(2), BWBS(5), CWH(73), ESSF(72), ICH(91), IDF(59), MH(5), MS(23), PP(12), SBPS(1), SBS(23), SWB(3)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to alpine, cosmopolitan fern (transcontinental in North America). Occurs on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-medium soils within tundra, boreal, temperate, and mesothermal climates. Rare to sporadic in non-forested communities and semi-open forests on water-shedding or water-receiving sites. Characteristic of colluvial sites.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Cystopteris dickieana Sim
Cystopteris fragilis subsp. dickieana (Sim) Hyl.
Cystopteris fragilis var. angustata G. Lawson
Cystopteris fragilis var. huteri (Hausman) Luerss.
Cystopteris fragilis var. laurentiana Weath.
Cystopteris fragilis var. simulans (Weath.) McGregor
Cystopteris fragilis var. tennesseensis (Shaver) McGregor
Cystopteris fragilis var. tenuifolia (Clute) Broun
Cystopteris fragilis var. woodsioides Christ
Filix fragilis (L.) Underw.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References