It is an upland variety typically found above 750 metres on screes made up of siliceous rocks such as quartzite and granite in the Highlands where it is found at only four sites. It is a snow-tolerant species, the snow lie protecting it from frosts.
Athyrium flexile is a stunted variety of Alpine Lady-fern A. distentifolium, a single gene mutation accounting for the difference between the two. It is considered by some experts to be a variant of Alpine Lady-fern (Athyrium distentifolium var flexile) rather than a distinct species.
Regarded as nationally scarce and vulnerable, more than 75% of the population is found in the high Cairngorm mountains including the boulder field plateau of Braeriach and in upper Glen Doll. It is found as high as 900 metres in Glen Einich.