Genus ''Pellaea'' generally are attached to soils with short to long creeping rhizomes, characterized by overlapping scales that are narrowly linear, with light to reddish or medium brown, often with a darker mid-stripe. the fronds are persistent and erect, persistent, typically not exceeding one meter in length. The more or less cylindric petioles are generally dark or reddish brown to blackish, with a shiny, glabrous character. Leaf blades are one to four-pinnate, with segments generally stalked and free, linear to rounded, sometimes lobed, often folded lengthwise when desiccated. The blade veins are normally free. Sporangia are exhibited in generally continuous, submarginal bands, sometimes among a whitish to yellowish exudate. Segment margins are typically recurved; spores are most often tan to light yellow.
Pellaea is a genus of ferns in the Cheilanthoideae subfamily of the Pteridaceae. The genus name is derived from the Greek word πελλος (pellos), meaning "dark," and refers to the bluish-gray stems. Members of the genus are commonly known as cliffbrakes. They primarily grow in rocky habitats, including moist rocky canyons, slopes, and bluffs.
They typically have creeping rhizomes and pinnately to bipinnately compound leaves lacking prominent scales or trichomes on the blades. Like most members of Pteridaceae, they have marginal sori protected by a false indusium formed from the reflexed leaf margin.
The distinction of Pellaea from the typically hairier or scalier Cheilanthes has proven difficult, with some members (e.g., the African P. viridis) being of uncertain affinity, listed by different authors in both genera. Furthermore, Pellaea contains a number of sections that may warrant generic status since they appear to represent convergence in phenotypes related to arid habitats rather than similarity due to common descent. These sections are:
- Pellaea section Pellaea: includes most American members of the genus as well as a single African member (P. rufa);
- Pellaea section Ormopteris: includes three or four South American species in or near Brazil;
- Pellaea section Platyloma: includes the Australian and New Zealand species;
- Pellaea section Holcochlaena: includes the African species.
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- "Genus: Pellaea Link". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-10-05. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/genus.pl?13106. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
- Christenhusz, Maarten J. M.; Zhang, Xian-Chun; Schneider, Harald (18 February 2011). "A linear sequence of extant families and genera of lycophytes and ferns". Phytotaxa 19: 7–54. ISSN 1179-3163. http://www.mapress.com/phytotaxa/content/2011/f/pt00019p054.pdf.
- Windham, Michael D.. "Pellaea Link, Fil. Spec. 59. 1841.". Flora of North America. eFloras.org. http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=124283. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
- "Pellaea". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=17639. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
- "GRIN Species Records of Pellaea". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/splist.pl?13106. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
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