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1 Sterile leaves usually 2 per plant, the petioles prostrate and the blades therefore held flat on the ground; roots smooth, yellowish; ultimate leaf segments about as wide as long, subflabellately veined, lacking a midrib; sporulating Jan-Apr; [section Hiemobotrychium or genus Holubiella]
1 Sterile leaf 1 per plant, the petiole erect or ascending and the blade usually held aerially; roots irregularly ribbed, blackish; ultimate leaf segments fan-shaped, obovate, longer than wide, pinnately veined, the midrib weakly developed; sporulating Jul-Oct; [section Sceptridium or genus Sceptridium s.s.].
..2 Sterile leaf 4-pinnate-pinnatifid, finely divided, the ultimate segments lacerate and linear, < 3 mm wide
......4 Sterile pinna and pinnule apices round to obtuse; ultimate segments cuneate, rounded, or truncate at the base; ultimate segments remote or overlapping; [VA and KY southwards]
......4 Sterile pinna and pinnule apices obtuse to acute (rarely round); ultimate segments mostly rounded at the base, not fan-shaped, ovate or oblong; ultimate segments often crowded and overlapping; [NJ, PA, w. VA, w. NC, WV, and OH northwards]
........5 Sterile pinna and pinnule apices obtuse to rounded (to somewhat acute); ultimate segments mostly ovate, narrowly ovate, or oblong, mostly about 2× as long as broad or less; overwintering leaves green, not bronze
..........6 Sterile blade mostly 2(-3)-pinnate, herbaceous in texture; ultimate blade segments mostly oblong to obliquely lanceolate, the margins nearly parallel, the base cuneate, the apex relatively blunt
..........6 Sterile blade mostly 3-pinnate (or more divided, those forms keyed above), leathery in texture; ultimate blade segments trowel-shaped, the margins usually not parallel, the base truncate or obtuse, the apex relatively pointed