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Bradley’s Spleenwort

Bradley’s Spleenwort (Asplenium bradleyi)

FAMILY: Aspleniaceae (Polypodiaceae)

DESCRIPTION: Tufted perennial, fronds evergreen, 0.4-2 dm.; sporulating June- September.

SIMILAR SPECIES: A. bradleyi is one of the more distinctive species within the complex of Appalachian spleenworts. However, fronds of all these spleenworts are exceedingly variable and the frequent presence of hybrids within the group adds an air of uncertainty to identification. Determination requires close comparison of typical fronds of these species. A. bradleyi often grows in the same habitat as the more frequent A. pinnatifidum. The pinnae of A. bradleyi are distinctly pinnate, while the pinnae of A. pinnatifidum are pinnatifid.

TOTAL RANGE: S. NY and NJ to GA and AL, w. to OH, MO and OK.

STATE RANGE: There are post-1990 records from Fairfield and Washington counties, and pre-1990 records from Adams, Athens, Hocking and Pike counties.

HABITAT: Exposed, barren situations, often in full sun, on acidic rocks; crevices, ledges, cliff faces.

THREATS: Mechanical disturbance from rock-climbing; overshading by woody species.


INVENTORY GUIDELINES: Collect complete, mature fronds; avoid overcollecting. High-resolution digital photos are acceptable. 

COMMENTS: Bradley's spleenwort seems to be very restricted in Ohio despite the abundance of suitable habitat throughout southeastern Ohio. It should be sought in this region. Perhaps it is overlooked because of its small size and misidentified as other species. Also, its occurrence on cliff faces makes collecting difficult at times. A. bradleyi is suspected to be an allopolyploid species derived from A. montanum Willd. and A. platyneuron (L.) Oakes. Two hybrid spleenworts involving A. bradleyi are known to exist, but these have yet to be found in Ohio. They should be sought in the state. These hybrids are: A. X gravesii Maxon (A. bradleyi X A. pinnatifidum) and A. X wherryi D.M. Sm. (A. bradleyi X A. montanum).


Cranfill, R. 1980. Ferns and fern allies of Kentucky. Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission Scientific and Technical Series No. 1. 284 p.

Cusick, A.W. 1984. Grave’s Spleenwort in Ohio. American Fern Journal 74: 63. Smith, D.M. and D.A. Levin. 1963. A chromatographic study of reticulate evolution in the Appalachian Asplenium complex. Am. Jour. Bot. 50: 952-958.

Wagner, W.H., Jr. 1954. Reticulate evolution in the Appalachian aspleniums. Evolution 8: 103-118.

Updated 7/2020

For more information:

Division of Natural Areas and Preserves