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Birdfoot Cliffbrake
Pellaea mucronata

About Birdfoot Cliffbrake (Pellaea mucronata) Pellaea mucronata is a species in the Pteridaceae (Fern) family known by the common name Bird's Foot Cliffbrake. It is native to much of California, and parts of Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Baja California, where it grows in various types of rocky habitat. There are two recognized subspecies in California. Ssp. californica is limited to California, while ssp. mucronata can be found outside the state's borders. Each leaf is 7 to 45 centimeters long and is borne on a thin petiole. It is composed of a thin, straight, brown rachis lined with widely spaced leaflets. The leaflets are divided into small narrow terminal segments, or these may be subdivided into another set of segments. The smallest segment is up to about a centimeter long and is green to dark purplish in color. The edges may be rolled under. The sporangia are located under the edges. It is reportedly very heat and cold tolerant. This could be a useful fern in rock gardens in most parts of the state.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
3.6 in (9.1 cm)

Max. Width
1 ft (0.3 m)



Summer Deciduous

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Rocky or dry places

Part Shade

Elevation ?
-3638' - 10427'

Annual Precip. ?
4.6" - 77.8"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 3.08"

Coldest Month ?
24.5° F - 58.8° F

Hottest Month ?
48.0° F - 87.5° F

Humidity ?
0.41 vpd - 38.31 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers well drained rocky or gravelly soil

Soil PH
5.5 - 7.4


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -5° F

Companion Plants
Use with Dudleya sp., Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), various annuals and herbaceous perennials, and geophytes such as Mariposa Lily (Calochortus sp.), Lilium sp., and Triteleia sp.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low, Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Rarely Used

Max. Summer Water ?
1x/month, 2x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist


Common uses
Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Rarely Available

Other Names
Common Names
Bird's Foot Cliffbrake, Bird's-foot Fern, Birdfoot Fern

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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