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Pinnatifid Spleenwort (Asplenium pinnatifidum)

Life history

Species overview

Pinnatifid Spleenwort (Asplenium pinnatifidum), a Wisconsin Threatened plant, is found in crevices in dry sandstone cliffs. This species can be identified year-round.

Synonyms: Asplenosorus pinnatifidus, Asplenium pinnatifidum var. trudellii


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from other ferns of this genus by its blades, which are deeply lobed but not truly pinnate (i.e., there are usually no distinct pinnae and the lobes are connected to one another).
  • Flower characteristics:
  • Fruit characteristics: Sori 1 to 2 mm long, 1 to several on each lobe, elongate, following the straight or slightly curved veins on the abaxial surface of the laminae; indusia long, thin, whitish, entire.
  • Leaf characteristics: Firm, spreading, lance-linear shaped fronds 10 to 30 cm in length and 2.5 cm wide; rachis as long as 12 cm; fronds deeply cleft at base, but merely lobed towards tip.


  • Blooming phenology:
  • Fruiting phenology: summer
  • Optimum time to identify: This species can be identified year-round


  • Growth form: Fern
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Quercus alba, Q. rubra, Carya ovata, Amelanchier spp., Betula papyrifera.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Pinnatifid Spleenwort (Asplenium pinnatifidum). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Asplenium pinnatifidum in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in crevices in dry sandstone cliffs.
  • Soils: Acidic soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Pinnatifid Spleenwort. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Dry Cliff 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Pinnatifid Spleenwort. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Western Coulee and Ridges 3

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Buffer management around unique microhabitats such as ephemeral ponds, seeps, etc.
  • Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.


Pinnatifid Spleenwort Photo.

Asplenium pinnatifidum.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Pinnatifid Spleenwort Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Pinnatifid Spleenwort Photo.

Asplenium Pinnatifidum.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition