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Vittaria appalachiana Farrar & Mickel. Appalachian Shoestring Fern, "Appalachian Gametophyte". Hab: Shaded grottoes, undersides of overhanging rock outcrops, especially in moist gorges or on spray cliffs in the vicinity of waterfalls, usually on felsic metamorphic rocks, such as mica schist, mica gneiss, granite gneiss, or metaquartzite, or on sandstone. Dist: Southern and Central Appalachians, mostly but not entirely south of the glacial boundary, from se. PA, sw. NY, and ne. OH south through c. TN and c. KY to n. GA, n. AL, and n. MS (Menapace, Davison, & Webb 1998).

ID notes:This reduced species consists of "a branched, ribbon-like thallus one cell in thickness, usually differentiated into basal and upright branches; basal branches attached to the substrate by numerous short, brown rhizoids emanating from marginal and interior cells; upright branches terminating in the production of gemmae" (Farrar & Mickel 1991).

Origin/Endemic status: Native

Other Comments: The species is often overlooked or mistaken for a liverwort; it is most often collected by bryologists and hepaticologists, and was first noted in 1824 by von Schweinitz, who considered it a Jungermannia. Although this species has been known for some time (often referred to as the ‘Appalachian Gametophyte’), it was only named formally relatively recently (Farrar & Mickel 1991). A range of evidence (morphologic, electrophoretic, and developmental) indicates that it is not the gametophyte of any known Vittaria sporophyte; instead, it is a distinct taxon, reproducing vegetatively by gemmae, having lost the capability of producing sporophytes. For additional information, see Farrar (1974), Farrar (1978), Gastony (1977), Farrar, Parks, & McAlpin (1983), and Pittillo et al. (1975).

Synonymy: = FNA2, K3, K4, NY, Pa, Tn, Va, Pinson, Chambers, & Sessa (2017); = "a branching, ribbon-like gametophyte, with diffuse rhizoids and linear-shaped gemmae only one cell wide, of the genus Vittaria" – RAB; = "irregularly shaped gametophytes a species" – C; < Vittaria lineata (L.) Sm. – WV

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image of plant© Alan M. Cressler | Original Image ⭷
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