Pellaea atropurpurea
Purple cliff brake
Image of Pellaea atropurpurea

Photo by Reuben Goforth 

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Key Characteristics

Small fern (50 cm) of sunny calcareous rocks in the Upper Peninsula; leaves triangular and 2-3 times divided, arising from dark purple hairy stalks; sporangia borne on inrolled margins of pinnules.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: T
  • State Rank: S2
  • Global Rank: G5


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Distribution map for Pellaea atropurpurea

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


The purple cliff-brake is found on alkaline bedrock outcrops, cliff faces, ledges, and pavement areas in the Upper Peninsula.

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

Creeping juniper, bearberry, poison ivy, fragile fern, wild columbine, common juniper, creeping juniper, Gillman's goldenrod, sand violet, chokecherry, and fly honeysuckle.


The species requires protection of the dry, rocky habitat from human foot traffic or clifftop development.

General Survey Guidelines

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgement of the investigator.

Survey Methods

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Jul 20, 2018]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract


Survey References

Technical References

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