Woodsia oregana

Oregon Woodsia

Oregon Woodsia, Photo courtesy of John Game
Oregon Woodsia
Photo courtesy of John Game

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Woodsia, for English botanist Joseph Woods (1776-1864).
  • oregana, from the Latin, "of Oregon"
  • Common name from its largely western distrbution. Somewhat ironically, the range of our subspecies, Woodsia oregana ssp. cathcartiana, does not extend to Oregon.
  • Other common names include Western Cliff Fern, Oregon Cliff Fern, Cathcart's Cliff Fern, Woodsie de l'Oregon (Qué)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Polypodiophyta, the True Ferns
      • Class Filicopsida
        • Order Polypodiales
          • Family Dryopteridaceae, the Wood Ferns
            • Genus Woodsia, the Cliff Ferns
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 17745


  • A small fern of rocky places, rare in our area.
  • Fronds 1½"-9¾"× ½"-1½"
    • Petiole (leaf stalk) reddish brown to dark purple toward the base when mature, not segmented above base, somewhat pliable and resistant to shattering.
    • Blade linear-lanceolate to narrowly ovate, pinnate-pinnatifid or 2-pinnate proximally, sparsely to moderately glandular; glandular hairs with thin stalks and slightly expanded tips; rachis with scattered glandular hairs and occasional hairlike scales.
    • Pinnae (primary leaflets) longer than wide, abruptly tapered to a rounded or broadly pointed tip; largest pinnae with 3-9 pairs of pinnules; both surfaces smooth to moderately glandular, lacking nonglandular hairs or scales.
    • Pinnules (secondary leaflets) toothed, often shallowly lobed with thin margins lacking cilia. Vein tips slightly (if at all) enlarged, barely visible on upper surface.
    • Indusia of narrow, usually filamentous segments.
  • Rootstalk compact, erect to ascending, with few to many persistent petiole bases of unequal lengths; scales often uniformly brown but at least some bicolored with dark central stripe and pale brown margins, narrowly lanceolate.


  • Identifiable as Woodsia by
    • relatively small size for our area
    • affinity for rocky habitats
    • twice-cut fronds
  • Distinguished from
    • Smooth Woodsia (Woodsia glabella) by its hairs and scales
    • Alpine Woodsia (Woodsia alpina) and Rusty Woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis), by its unarticulated leaf stalk (petiole) and toothed leaf edges.
    • Rocky Mountain Woodsia (Woodsia scopulina) by its lack of a concentration of hairs along the midrib and by its mature leafstalks, which are often light brown to straw-colored and though occasionally reddish brown to dark purple they remain much more pliable than the leafstalks of the Rocky Mountain Woodsia, and resistant to shattering.
  • Field Marks
    • hairs and scales on fronds and leafstalks
    • absence of stem segmentation or articulation
    • color of mature leaf stalk


  • Montana, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, south to Idaho, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Also New York.







  • By spore


  • By spore; difficult.


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Generally not available commercially.



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Last Updated on 26 February, 2004