This section is from the book "The Native Flowers And Ferns Of The United States ", by Thomas Meehan. Also available from Amazon: The Native Flowers and Ferns of the United States in Their Botanical, Horticultural, And Popular Aspects.
Rootstock short, creeping, chaffy with narrow dark brown scales; stalks densely tufted, dark-brown, glossy, four to eight inches long; frond four inches long or less, broadly deltoid-ovate, smooth on both surfaces, delicately quadri-pinnatifkl (that is to say, four-pinnate, with all but the primary rachis narrowly winged); lower pinnae largest, triangular, more developed on the lower side; upper ones gradually smaller and simpler; ultimate pinnules lanceolate, very acute, incised or serrate, and when fruiting with usually separate, crescent-shaped, membraneous involucres in the sinuses between the teeth, which also are often at length recurved. (Eaton in Rothrock's Botany of Wheeler's Expedition. See also Eaton's Ferns of North America.)
IN the work from which we have taken our description, Pro-fessor Eaton says of this species: "Moist shady canons and ravines in the coast ranges of California, received by me only from Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, but probably of wider range. Sonora, Mexico, Schott. A very delicate and pretty fern, and eagerly sought by collectors. Sir William Hooker placed it in the genus Hypolepis, a genus of large ferns, which are utterly unlike this plant in habit, and are really much nearer to Phegopteris than to Cheilanthes. The involucres are lunulate, and of a different substance from the lobule, at the base of which they are placed, but as the sporangia ripen this lobule is frequently reflexed, so as to form a sort of second involucre." Though this species is named Cheilanthes Californica, it is not the only one that is native to that State, as there are several species existing there, - nor is it so abundant as to deserve this particular name, for, though the remark of Professor Eaton that it "is probably of wider range" than his collections indicate, is correct, it is undoubtedly more limited than some others. It was first found in California in the early part of the present century by that early botanical explorer Nuttall, and the differences noted by Eaton, as above cited, impressed him so strongly that he named it Aspidotis California!, from the ear-like resemblance of the indusium to the Phegopteris section of Aspidium, the shield-fern. As it was then the only known Californian species of the genus, the specific name Californica was distinctive, - but as the variations of ferns have become better understood, modern botanists have discarded the genus, uniting its species with Cheilanthes, but have retained the specific name that was originally given to it. The particular manner in which the genus Cheilanthes varies may be understood by the following from Mr. John Smith's "Historia Filicum": "The genus consists of about thirty or forty known species of slender fronded ferns, widely spread through the tropics and sub-tropical regions of both hemispheres. They vary considerably in size, and the divisions of the fronds, as also in the indusium, being of various forms, which, in some cases, might be considered sufficient to be of generic value, but as it often varies in form in the same species, it cannot be viewed as of more than specific value. In some it is a distinct, round, inflexed crenule, containing on its axis a single receptacle; in others it is oblong, or more or less elongated, containing two or more receptacles, in some it is straight, in others it is crenulated and wavy." These variations, however, serve very well to divide the genus into distinct divisions, and though Aspidotis is no longer a generic name, its relative Aspi-dopsis is employed to designate that section of Cheilanthes which has the indusium nearly round - like an aspidion or little shield, as seen in our Fig. 2 - and special to each cluster of sporangia; and as our species is the only one of that section, we have suggested for it the common name of Shield-like Lip-Fern instead of Californian Lip-Fern, as it is designated in some catalogues. As noted by Professor Eaton, it will probably be found much more widely distributed than it is generally believed to be. It has been received by the writer of this from several correspondents during the past two years, most of them believing, from the peculiarities already referred to, that they had found a new genus, or at least a new species. The specimen from which our drawing was made was sent by Dr. L. D. Morse, from San Mateo, and supposed to be new. It is a much finer and more delicate form than those generally received, if we may judge from the drawing of one in Mr. Robinson's little book, "Ferns in their Homes and Ours," and also one which has been given in Professor Eaton's "Ferns of North America." In Mr. Robinson's drawing the frondose portion is longer than the stalk; but our drawing, which represents the whole plant, with the fronds of the past season as well as those of the present, shows that this relative length of stalk and frond is as variable as characters derived from the indusium, or from the lobing of the frond, and herein shows the advantage of drawing all the fronds, old as well as new, in order to give a clear idea of the exact characters of the species; though, so far as we know, our work is among the few which give drawings of complete plants in this way. In most descriptions of ferns the proportionate lengths of the fronds and stalks are particularly given. Our drawing shows how this varies in the same plant. There is one frond with the two portions about equal in length, as in Mr. Robinson's drawing, - another has the frondose portion of about the same length as the last, but with the stalk double the length, - while on the old fronds the stalks are very long and slender in proportion to the length of the leafy surface. Indeed, so far as we might judge by the appearances of our picture, it seems to be the rule that the stem is short in proportion to the length and breadth of the leaf-blade, - the smaller the blade the longer the stalk. The knowledge of the rules which govern these seeming variations is of great assistance in enabling the student to decide on the species. Among some of its resemblances Professor Eaton says: "This pretty and delicate fern reminds one, by its general habit, of the still rarer Cystopteris Montana. The frond, however, is of rather firmer texture, and is still more finely divided." But these resemblances are but superficial. When a portion of the fruiting frond, as in our Fig. 2, is examined, the student will have no difficulty in distinguishing it readily from its allies. In its native locations it is found growing on rocks in situations partially shaded from the full sun. It has not yet been much cultivated, but when the opportunity occurs for obtaining it, a knowledge of its natural location will assist its successful culture. A writer in an English paper, who has had experience with a closely allied species of the Pacific coast, says "it must be planted in a select nook in peat and sand, with pieces of limestone placed about it, and it is as well to protect it well during the winter." It is not likely that it would endure the severe frosts of our Atlantic winters, unless the last suggestion is particularly heeded.
1. A complete plant from San Mateo.
2. Pinnule in fruit, much enlarged.