Northern Desert Star CloakfernCarl Rothfels
Notholaena standleyi is one of the most striking ferns of Mexico and the southwestern US (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas). It is locally common in rock cracks and sheltered pockets under boulders in dry exposed sites. Along with Astrolepis spp., N. standleyi is perhaps the most xeric-tolerant of all ferns. The farina composition (and color) varies considerably within this species. Seigler and Wollenweber (1983) distinguished three “chemotypes”—groups within N. standleyi that differ in farina composition, geographic range, and substrate preferences—and Windham and Yatskievych (unpublished data) distinguished a fourth. These four chemotypes (informally referred to as Gold, Pallid, Yellow, and Yellow-Green) also differ in their ploidy levels (number of complete chromosome sets they contain). Gold and Yellow are diploids, while Pallid and Yellow-Green are tetraploids (Windham and Yatskievych, unpublished data). Preliminary data (Rothfels et al., 2008) suggest that these four chemotypes may be phylogenetic units worthy of taxonomic recognition, but more study is needed.
Farina composition and color vary considerably within Notholaena standleyi. The leaves in this photograph probably represent the Gold chemotype (left) and Yellow chemotype (center and right). They are from one of very few known mixed chemotype populations. © 2008 Carl Rothfels
The thick, star-shaped leaves of these species are distinctive; they could be confused with only the very similar N. sulphurea (the blade of N. standleyi is pinnatifid—all the lobes are connected by a strip of green leaf tissue—whereas in N. sulphurea the terminal lobe is on its own short stalk, separate from the side lobes). The blades are elevated on wiry stalks and densely covered with farina beneath—white to cream to light yellow in the Pallid and Yellow chemotypes; deep gold, greenish yellow, to brown in the Gold and Yellow-Green chemotypes. When the plants are water stressed (which is much of the time in their typical habitats), the leaves curl into tight balls, exposing their farina-covered undersides.
Yellow chemomorph of Notholaena standleyi with the leaves curled exposing their farina-covered undersides. © 2008 Carl Rothfels
- Notholaena candida var. quinquefidopalmata
- Notholaena hookeri
- Notholaena sulphurea var. quinquifidopalmata
- Chrysochosma hookeri
- Vernacular Names: Northern Desert Star Cloakfern, Northern Desert Star
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Windham, M. D., L. Huiet, E. Schuettpelz, C. J. Rothfels, J. Beck, A. L. Grusz, G. Yatskievych, and K. M. Pryer. 2008. Using plastid and nuclear DNA sequences to redraw generic boundaries and demystify species complexes in cheilanthoid ferns. American Fern Journal (in review).
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Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Carl Rothfels at
Page copyright © 2008 Carl Rothfels
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- First online 23 December 2008
- Content changed 23 December 2008
Citing this page:
Rothfels, Carl. 2008. Notholaena standleyi http://tolweb.org/Notholaena_standleyi/133579/2008.12.23 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/. Northern Desert Star Cloakfern. Version 23 December 2008 (under construction).