Sp. Pl. 2: 1085. 1753.
Stems often whitish pruinose, slender, to 6 mm diam., acrid-tasting; scales weakly bicolored, lanceolate, contorted distally, base and margins light-brown, sometimes with dark central stripe, margins denticulate. Leaves to 40 cm. Petiole slender, to 2 mm diam. Blade oblong to narrowly lanceolate, pinnatifid, usually widest near middle, occasionally at or near base, to 7 cm wide, somewhat leathery; rachis sparsely scaly to glabrescent abaxially, glabrous adaxially; scales lanceolate-ovate, usually more than 6 cells wide. Segments oblong, less than 8 mm wide; margins entire to crenulate; apex rounded to broadly acute; midrib glabrous adaxially. Venation free. Sori midway between margin and midrib to nearly marginal, less than 3 mm diam., circular when immature. Sporangiasters present, usually less than 40 per sorus, heads covered with glandular-hairs. Spores more than 52 µm, tuberculate, surface projections more than 3 µm tall. 2n = 148.
Phenology: Sporulating summer–fall.
Habitat: Cliffs and rocky slopes, on a variety of substrates
Elevation: 0–1800 m
St. Pierre and Miquelon, Alta., Man., N.B., Nfld. and Labr. (Nfld.), N.W.T., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Sask., Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Mo., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Pa., R.I., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.
Traditionally, two cytotypes have been recognized within Polypodium virginianum (I. Manton and M. Shivas 1953). Recent research has demonstrated that the tetraploid cytotype, which properly bears the name P. virginianum (R. Cranfill and D. M. Britton 1983), is an allopolyploid produced by hybridization between the diploid cytotype (here called P. appalachianum) and P. sibiricum (C. H. Haufler and M. D. Windham 1991; C. H. Haufler and Wang Z. R. 1991). Although sometimes similar to its diploid parents in overall leaf morphology, P. virginianum has consistently larger spores, typically more than 52 µm (see additional comments under P. appalachianum and P. sibiricum). Frequent hybridizations between P. virginianum and P. appalachianum form morphologically intermediate, triploid individuals with misshapen spores. Sterile triploids also result from hybridization between P. virginianum and P. sibiricum.