This native perennial fern forms loose rosettes of ascending to widely spreading compound leaves. These leaves are deciduous. The leaf blades are ½2' long, while their petioles are 3-6" long. The slender petiole is mostly glabrous and variably colored usually dark red while young, but becoming pale greenish yellow or pale greenish red with maturity. The leaf blades are light to medium green, bipinnate-pinnatifid in structure and deltoid to lanceolate-deltoid in shape. Each blade consists of about 8-25 pairs of nearly sessile leaflets; the blade is widest at or near the bottom, while its tip is rather long and slender. Each leaflet consists of about 5-15 pairs of subleaflets; the leaflets are lanceolate to lanceolate-deltoid in shape. The pinnatifid subleaflets are shallowly cleft and serrated along their margins; each subleaflet is oblong to lanceolate-oblong in shape. The rachis (or central stalk) of the leaf blade is either hairless or sparsely covered with fine glandular hairs, especially on the underside; like the petiole, its color is variable. On fertile leaves, the underside of each subleaflet has 2 rows of small circular sori. Depending on their maturity, these sori are light green to brown; each sorus has an indusium with fine glandular hairs. On the underside of each subleaflet, the lateral veins extend to the sinuses (depressions between the teeth), rather than to the tips of the teeth. In addition to the sori, a green bulblet may be produced at the base of some leaflet undersides. The bulblets are globoid in shape, but cleft at the top; they eventually become much larger than the sori and drop from the leaves at maturity (from late summer to early fall). At favorable locations, these fallen bulblets soon develop into small ferns. The tiny spores of the sori are released at about the same time of year; they are distributed by the wind. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous. This fern often forms colonies of plants from its bulblets and rhizomes.