Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

This medium-small fern is unique because of the bulblets that form on the underside of its leaves. Aside from this unusual method of asexual reproduction, the Bulblet Fern is similar in appearance to other Cystopteris spp. (Bladder Ferns) and their hybrids. In general, the Bulblet Fern can be distinguished from these other ferns as follows
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Description

This native perennial fern forms loose rosettes of ascending to widely spreading compound leaves. These leaves are deciduous. The leaf blades are ½–2' 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.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The Bulblet Fern is found primarily in counties along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers; it also occurs in northern Illinois (see Distribution Map). In these areas, this fern is uncommon to occasional; elsewhere, it is rare or absent. Habitats include the lower ledges and crevices of cliffs, rocky ravines, rocky banks of streams, mossy boulders of rocky woodlands, and mossy stone walls. Usually, the rocky material of these habitats consists of limestone, although it sometimes consists of sandstone. In Illinois, the habitats of this fern are restricted to shady wooded areas that are quite rocky and damp.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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N.B., Nfld., N.S., Ont., Que.; Ala., Ariz., Ark., Conn., Del., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Mo., N.H., N.J., N.Mex., N.Y., N.C., Ohio., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Utah, Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Stems creeping, not cordlike, internodes very short, less than 0.5 cm, heavily beset with old petiole bases, hairs absent; scales uniformly brown to somewhat clathrate, lanceolate, radial walls brown, luminae clear. Leaves monomorphic, clustered at stem apex, to 75 cm, seasonally bearing sori (earliest leaves lack sori, subsequent leaves with sori). Petiole reddish when young, usually green or straw-colored throughout (occasionally darker) in mature specimens, shorter than blade, base sparsely scaly. Blade broadly to narrowly deltate, 2-pinnate to 2-pinnate-pinnatifid, almost always widest at base, apex long-attenuate; rachis and costae usually densely covered by unicellular, gland-tipped hairs, often with bulblets; axils of pinnae occasionally with multicellular, gland-tipped hairs. Pinnae mostly perpendicular to rachis, not curving toward blade apex, margins serrate; proximal pinnae pinnate-pinnatifid to pinnatifid, ± equilateral, basiscopic pinnules not enlarged, basal basiscopic pinnules sessile to short-stalked, bases truncate to obtuse; distal pinnae ovate to oblong. Veins directed into notches. Indusia cup-shaped, apex truncate, typically invested with unicellular, gland-tipped hairs. Spores spiny, usually 33--38 µm. 2 n = 84.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Polypodium bulbiferum Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 1091. 1753
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The Bulblet Fern is found primarily in counties along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers; it also occurs in northern Illinois (see Distribution Map). In these areas, this fern is uncommon to occasional; elsewhere, it is rare or absent. Habitats include the lower ledges and crevices of cliffs, rocky ravines, rocky banks of streams, mossy boulders of rocky woodlands, and mossy stone walls. Usually, the rocky material of these habitats consists of limestone, although it sometimes consists of sandstone. In Illinois, the habitats of this fern are restricted to shady wooded areas that are quite rocky and damp.
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Sporulating summer--fall. Cracks and ledges on cliffs, rarely terrestrial; usually on calcareous substrates; 0--2500m.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

Information about floral-faunal relationships for this fern is currently unavailable.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cystopteris bulbifera

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is light to medium shade, wet to consistently moist conditions (but always well-drained), and rocky ground (preferably limestone) with a thin layer of organic material. This fern prefers sheltered locations with high humidity where there is little competition from other plants.
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Wikipedia

Cystopteris bulbifera

Cystopteris bulbifera (bulblet bladderfern) is a low-growing rock fern with creeping stems and narrow elongate deltate fronds which grow to 75 cm (30 in), native to eastern North America with two disjunct populations in the west. It is found only on calcareous substrates such as limestone. It commonly festoons limestone cave openings. While most commonly found on vertical rock faces, it also grows in rocky scree. C. bulbifera is unusual among ferns in producing bulblets along the bottom of the fronds. This is one of the easiest Cystopteris species to identify.

Closeup of bulblet

This species is known to hybridize with Cystopteris fragilis, Cystopteris protrusa, Cystopteris reevesiana, and Cystopteris tenuis. Hybrids with C. fragilis have given rise to the allohexaploid species C. laurentiana. Hybrids with C. protrusa have given rise to the allotetraploid species C. tennesseensis. The hybrid with C. reevesiana has given rise to the allotetraploid species C. utahensis. The hybrid with C. tenuis is known as C. Xillinoensis, an allotriploid. Also see Cystopteris hybrid complex.

References[edit]

  1. ^ synonyms Tropicos.org. Missouri Botanical Garden. 24 Dec 2011
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Notes

Comments

Cystopteris bulbifera usually occurs on moist calcareous cliffs, but it also grows on rock in dense woods and occasionally occurs terrestrially in northern swamps. Blades on most individuals are narrowly deltate and distinctively long-attenuate. The rachises, costae, and indusia are densely beset with gland-tipped, unicellular hairs. Mature specimens often have deciduous bulblets. These characteristics readily distinguish C . bulbifera from other diploid species. 

 Hybridization and allopolyploidy involving Cystopteris bulbifera and other North American Cystopteris species have generated several species. In the eastern portion of its range, C . bulbifera and C . protrusa are the diploid progenitors of the tetraploid C . tennesseensis (C. H. Haufler et al. 1990). In northeastern North America, C . bulbifera has hybridized with tetraploid C . fragilis , ultimately resulting in the hexaploid C . laurentiana (R. F. Blasdell 1963). In the southwest, the diploid C . reevesiana and disjunct representatives of C . bulbifera are the progenitors of the tetraploid C . utahensis (C. H. Haufler and M. D. Windham 1991). In addition to these fertile allopolyploids, sterile hybrids are also possible when C . bulbifera is sympatric with its polyploid derivatives. Sterile hybrids between C . bulbifera and C . tennesseensis have been identified from several localities. Cystopteris bulbifera may hybridize with C . tenuis to form C . × illinoensis (C. H. Haufler et al. 1990; R. C. Moran 1982b). Diploid sexual C . bulbifera may be distinguished from these allopolyploid species and sterile hybrids because the hybrid-derived taxa (1) will normally have less prominent glandular hairs, (2) will have misshapen bulblets, (3) will more likely have blades that are widest above the base, and (4) will have large spores (in sexual allopolyploids) or malformed spores (in sterile hybrids).

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