Often growing among the ephemerals of our springtime woodlands, Cystopteris fragilis is one of the earliest ferns to emerge in Indiana. It's called "fragile" fern because the stipe is very brittle - if you try to bend it, it will snap in two. A few varieties of the species have been named, but since more than one can usually be found in a single, dense colony, and since intermediates are often seen, I do not recognize the varieties.
A closely related species known as Bulblet Fern, Cystopteris bulbifera, has much longer, gradually tapering blades and grows on rock cliffs and talus slopes. In late summer and fall it produces small, vegetative propagules known as bulblets on the underside of the blade.
"Nature made ferns for pure leaves, to show what she could do in that line." Henry David Thoreau.
"Ferns are lovely. Ferns are beautiful." Emma Bickham Pitcher