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Purple-Stemmed Cliffbrake Fern

Purple-Stemmed Cliffbrake Fern

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Purple Stemmed Cliffbrake Fern Landscaping Benefits

Purple-stemmed Cliffbrake -- Pellaea atropurpurea
Noted for its dark purple on both the stem and frond shaft, the Purple-stemmed Cliffbrake is at home among the rocks. In fact, the word brake was once a regularly-used term for fern. The purple is complemented by its blue/gray leaves. Looking closely at the stem, tiny hairs can be seen, and the underside of the leaves curl inward. The curled area of the fronds is also where the spores are located. 
This drought-tolerant plant does well in zones 5 through 9 and adds subtle color and texture to the landscape of areas where other plants have difficulty growing. In fact, this hardy evergreen is native to zones that would ordinarily be considered dissimilar in climate. Because of its ability to thrive in limestone-rich soil, this unique fern tolerates Arizona’s full sun, Florida’s humidity, and Vermont’s northern ruggedness with the same hardiness. 
Within each clump growing among the rocky cliffs, the stem holds five or six shafts. Its shafts reveal sparse and asymmetrical frond growth. The lack of ostentation combined with its low-maintenance appeal creates surprising versatility in the garden. Part of the interest this fern creates is its size variance. The stems may range from two to 20 inches, while the fronds can vary in length from four to twelve inches. 
At first glance, the Purple-stemmed Cliffbrake might appear too fragile to withstand the requirements needed to sustain itself in unforgiving conditions. That’s the beauty of this plant – under its seemingly delicate structure, exists a formidable earthiness. 
This plant thrives on a masonry wall that’s weathered with time. So long as it’s left alone to adapt to its environment, it will fully mature enough in three to four years to create spores. It’s thought that the reason why the Purple-stemmed Cliffbrake flourishes on masonry walls is due in part to its ability to reproduce asexually. Combined with the calcium-laden components found in both limestone and cement, its an environment in which this fern is comfortably at home.