Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle bladderfern)
Cressler, Alan

Cystopteris fragilis

Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh.

Brittle Bladderfern, Brittle Bladder Fern, Fragile Fern

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)

Synonym(s): Cystopteris dickieana, Cystopteris fragilis ssp. dickieana, Cystopteris fragilis var. angustata, Cystopteris fragilis var. woodsioides, Filix fragilis

USDA Symbol: CYFR2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), HI (I?), CAN (N), GL (N), SPM (N)

The appearance of fragile fern is variable, depending greatly on habitat. It is usually a low clump (10-12 in. tall and 2 ft. across) of narrowly-pointed, twice pinnate fronds.


From the Image Gallery

8 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb , Fern
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Size Notes: Fronds up to about 16 inches long.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Not Applicable
Bloom Notes: Non-flowering, sporulating plant. Sporulates Mar - Aug.


USA: AK , AZ , CA , CO , CT , HI , IA , ID , IL , KS , MA , ME , MI , MN , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NM , NV , NY , OH , OR , PA , SD , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WY
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Nf. to AK, s. locally to PA, VA mts., n. IN, AR, TX & CA
Native Habitat: Rich, deciduous woods; sandstone ridges; bluffs

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Soil Description: Moist, neutral soil among limey rocks.
Conditions Comments: One of the earliest spring ferns, fronds wither during droughts and quickly reappear after the next rainy spell.


Description: Propagate by division.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Cystopteris fragilis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Cystopteris fragilis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Cystopteris fragilis


Record Modified: 2023-01-26
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back