Polypodium virginianum (Common Polypody)

Plant Info
Also known as: Rock Polypody
Family:Polypodiaceae (Polypody)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; cliffs, rocky slopes, rich wooded slopes
Fruiting season:summer
Plant height:4 to 10 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed

[photo of frond] Leaves are 4 to 10 inches long and 1 to 4 inches wide, evergreen and leathery, deeply lobed, divided almost to the stem but not compound, narrowly oblong and widest near the middle. There are 10 to 20 pairs of lobes that are mostly alternate, oblong with a blunt or pointed tip, and have a prominent central vein. Lateral veins are free, typically forked and do not reach the edge of the lobe. The edges are smooth or with small blunt teeth. The stem is smooth and light green with some occasional brown scales on the lower part of the stem, and are mostly arching. The leaves may be found individually or in clumps, spreading from long rhizomes.

Spores: Fruit type: spores on leaf

[photo of spores] Spores first appear in early summer. The sori (group of spores) are on the underside of the leaf but not all leaves have spores. The sori are circular, orangish brown and not covered by tissue (indusium). They are in rows on each side of the mid-vein of a lobe, halfway between the mid-vein and lobe edge.


Common Polypody is easy to identify in the field as it doesn't look similar to anything else in Minnesota. In favorable conditions it can form large colonies.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at Falls Creek SNA, Washington County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.