Members of the genus Pellaea, sometimes called cliff brakes, are ferns primarily of rocky habitats, including moist rocky canyons, slopes, and bluffs. They are most abundant and diverse in the southwestern United States south into Andean South America, central Africa, and eastern Australia to New Zealand. They typically have creeping rhizomes and pinnately to bipinnately compound leaves lacking prominent scales or trichomes on the blades. Like most members of Pteridaceae, they have marginal sori protected by a false indusium formed from the reflexed leaf margin.
The distinction of Pellaea from the typically hairier or scalier Cheilanthes has proven difficult, with some members (e.g., the African Pellaea viridis) being of uncertain affinity, listed by different authors in both genera. Furthermore, Pellaea contains a number of sections that may warrant generic status since they appear to represent convergence in phenotypes related to arid habitats rather than similarity due to common descent. These sections are:
Members of the genus are not generally used for any commercial purpose, although several species (most notably Pellaea rotundifolia and Pellaea falcata of section Platyloma) are cultivated as indoor plants.Selected Species