Coffee Fern

Coffee Fern © DSchiel

Coffee Cliffbrake
Pellaea andromedifolia

Description (Jepson,

    • Polypodiopsida (ferns)
      • A group of early vascular plants that produce spores (no flowers or seeds)
    • Brake / Maiden-hair Family (Pteridaceae)
    • Perennial fern
      • Grows from long, branched rhizomes (horizontal underground stems)
    • Fronds
      • Generally elongated and triangular; 8-20 in. long
      • Divided into leaflets (compound) with up to three levels of division (pinnation)
      • Leaflets (leaf-like structures of compound leaf) small, green to purplish, rounded, and may be notched at the tip
    • Stems are dark brown to black, smooth, and wiry
    • Reproduces from spores (a small, usually single-celled, reproductive body)
      • Spores produced in a continuous band on underside margin of frond
      • Curled frond edges protect the spores
    • Height to 9.6 in.


      • Native to California
        • Grows in chaparral, grasslands, and moist woodlands, in rock crevices and on shaded hillsides
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Outside California, grows from Oregon to Baja California, Mexico
      • Grows at elevations to 3,775 ft.
      Underside with Spores © DSchiel

      Name Derivation

        • Pellaea (pel-EE-a) – from the Greek pellaios, “dark,” referring to the dark stems and the dark color of mature fronds
        • andromedifolia (an-dro-me-di-FO-lee-a) – has fronds like the bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia), itself named after Andromeda, a princess from Greek mythology, who was chained to a rock as an offering to a sea monster and rescued by Perseus
        • Coffee – refers to the dark color of the mature leaflets and perhaps to their shape, reminiscent of a coffee bean


          • Grows new fronds in the wet season, remaining into the following year
          • New growth is bright green; fronds darken as they age becoming purple-red or brown
          • Deer resistant

          ID Tips

            • The 2 other Edgewood ferns in the Brake family – goldback fern (Pentagramma triangularis ssp. triangularis) and California maidenhair fern (Adiantum jordanii) – also have dark-brown to black, smooth, wiry stems, but each has distinct leaflets

            At Edgewood

              • Found in partially-shaded chaparral and similar dry, rocky places
              • Coffee fern will tolerate more sunshine than other Edgewood ferns

              See General References

              Specific References

                American Fern Society. About Ferns.

                  Prigge, B.A. and Gibson, A.C. 2013. Pellaea andromedifolia. A Naturalist’s Flora of the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills, California. Web version, hosted at Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. National Park Service. US Department of Interior.

                    U.S. Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture. What Are Ferns?.