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Woodsia alpina

(Alpine Cliff Fern)

Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in English:

Alpine Cliff Fern, Alpine Woodsia, Northern Woodsia, Woodsie Alpine

Common Names in French:

Woodsie Alpine

Common Names in unspecified:

Alpine Woodsia


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Physical Description

Species Woodsia alpina

Stems compact , erect to ascending , with cluster of persistent petiole bases of ± equal length ; scales uniformly brown, lanceolate. Leaves 2.5--20 × 0.5--2.5 cm. Petiole reddish brown or dark purple when mature , articulate above base at swollen node, relatively brittle and easily shattered. Blade linear to narrowly lanceolate, usually pinnate-pinnatifid proximally, lacking glands , never viscid ; rachis with widely scattered hairs and scales. Pinnae ovate-lanceolate to deltate, longer than wide, abruptly tapered to a rounded or broadly acute apex; largest pinnae with 1--3 pairs of pinnules ; abaxial surface with isolated hairs and linear scales , adaxial surface glabrous . Pinnules entire or broadly crenate ; margins nonlustrous, thin, with occasional isolated cilia, lacking translucent projections. Vein tips often enlarged to form whitish hydathodes visible adaxially. Indusia of narrow, hairlike segments, these uniseriate throughout, composed of cells many times longer than wide, usually surpassing mature sporangia. Spores averaging 46--53 µm. Sporulating summer--early fall . [source]

Isozyme studies confirm the longstanding hypothesis that Woodsia alpina is an allotetraploid derived from hybridization between W. glabella and W. ilvensis (see reticulogram). Considerable disagreement exists concerning the chromosome number of W. alpina, but 2 n = 160 seems most likely, given the numbers reported for the two parental species. Hybrids between W. alpina and W. ilvensis have been reported from both Europe and North America. These morphologically intermediate triploids with malformed spores have been called W. × gracilis (Lawson) Butters. [source]

Habit: Deciduous.

Flowers: Bloom Period: n/a • Flower Color: inconspicuous, none


Size: under 6" tall.


Crevices and ledges on cliffs (occasionally on rocky slopes ); mostly slaty and calcareous rocks; 0--1500 m [1].

Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 1,422 meters (0 to 4,665 feet).[2]


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Culture: Space 12-15" apart.

Soil: Minimum pH: 5.1 • Maximum pH: 7.8

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade.

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b. (map)


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Acrostichum alpinum Bolton • Plate 42. 1790 • W. bellii (Lawson) Porsild • W. hyperborea (Liljeblad) R. Brown • W. ilvensis (Linnaeus) R. Brown Var. alpina (Bolton) Watt • Woodsia alpina var. bellii Lawson • Woodsia glabella var. bellii (Lawson) Lawson


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 15-Mar-2000

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Woodsia

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 28 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

W. alpina (Alpine Cliff Fern) · W. appalachiana (Appalachian Cliff Fern) · W. cochisensis (Cochise Cliff Fern) · W. glabella (Smooth Cliff Fern) · W. gracilis (Woodsia) · W. ilvensis (Kansas Woodsia) · W. mexicana (Mexican Cliff Fern) · W. neomexicana (New Mexico Cliff Fern) · W. obtusa (Blunt-Lobe Woodsia) · W. obtusa obtusa (Blunt-Lobe Woodsia) · W. obtusa occidentalis (Western Cliff Fern) · W. obtusa subsp. occidentalis (Western Cliff Fern) · W. oregana (Oregon Cliff Fern) · W. oregana cathcartiana (Oregon Cliff Fern) · W. oregana oregana (Oregon Cliff Fern) · W. oregana subsp. cathcartiana (Oregon Cliff Fern) · W. phillipsii (Phillips' Cliff Fern) · W. plummerae (Plummer Woodsia) · W. scopulina (Rocky Mountain Cliff Fern) · W. scopulina laurentiana (Rocky Mountain Cliff Fern) · W. scopulina scopulina (Rocky Mountain Cliff Fern) · W. scopulina subsp. laurentiana (Laurent's Cliff Fern) · W. subcordata (Subcordate Woodsia) · W. × abbeae (Hybrid (Sterile Triploid)) · W. × gracilis (Woodsia) · W. × kansana (Hybrid) · W. × maxonii (Maxon's Woodsia) · W. × tryonis (Tryon's Woodsia)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 01, 2008:



  1. "Woodsia alpina". in Flora of North America Vol. 2. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  2. Mean = 492.770 meters (1,616.699 feet), Standard Deviation = 414.240 based on 1,868 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-05-07