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Montana Field Guides

Northern Beechfern - Phegopteris connectilis
Other Names:  Thelypteris phegopteris

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2S3
(see State Rank Reason below)
State Threat Score: Medium - Low
CCVI: Moderately Vulnerable
C-value: 6

Agency Status
USFS: Sensitive - Known in Forests (KOOT)


External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Rare in Montana where it is known from the extreme northwest corner of the state to Glacier National Park. Past timber harvesting likely led to declines in the species' abundance and distribution. Invasive weeds (Orange and Meadow Hawkweeds), proposed mining activity, timber harvesting and fires all have the potential to detrimentally impact the species in the future.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Northern Beechfern (Phegopteris connectilis) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 01/09/2013
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    Score1 - Moderate: Generally 10,000-100,000 individuals.

    Range Extent

    Score1 - Peripheral, Disjunct or Sporadic Distribution in MT: Widespread species that is peripheral, disjunct or sporadically distributed within MT such that it occurs in <5% of the state (<7,500 sq. miles or the combined area of Beaverhead and Ravalli Counties) or is restricted to 4-5 sub-basins.

    Area of Occupancy

    Score1 - Moderate: Generally occurring in 11-25 Subwatersheds (6th Code HUC’s).

    Environmental Specificity

    Score1-2 - Moderate to High.


    Score0-2 - Stable to Moderate Declines:

    CommentTrend data are unavailable. Habitat generally appears to be stable and it does not appear likely that severe declines have occurred, though it is possible that minor declines have occurred or may be occuring across the species' range in Montana due to drought conditions or other factors.


    Score1 - Medium: 11-30% of the populations are being negatively impacted or are likely to be impacted by one or more activities or agents, which are expected to result in decreased populations and/or habitat quality and/or quantity.

    CommentPotential threats at various sites range from invasive weeds to mining activity. Timber harvesting, if was to occur at occupied sites is also likely to cause negative impacts.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    Score2 - High Vulnerability: Very specific biological attributes, unusual life history characteristics or limited reproductive potential makes the species highly susceptible to extirpation from stochastic events or other adverse impacts to its habitat and very slow to recover.

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 7 to 10 total points scored out of a possible 19.

General Description
Northern Beechfern has leaves that are scattered along long, slender rhizomes. The leaves are 1.5-5 dm long, with about half of their length being a long, slender petiole. The blades are beset with hairs; especially ciliate hairs exist along the margins and rachis. There are 10-25 pairs of pinnae in each pinnately compound leaf. The sori are borne just inside the margins of each pinnule.

Producing spores late in season; August or September.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Distinguished from most other ferns with uniform, non-evergreen fronds greater than 10 cm by scattered rather than densely tufted fronds, and by the distinctly hairy blade margins and midveins rather than glabrous or chaffy ones. There are many fern species which are difficult to identify from each other. A technical key should be consulted.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
In MT in Lincoln, Flathead and Glacier counties; AK to Greenland south to OR, MT, SK, MO, and VA (Lesica et al. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 45

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Mesic, western redcedar forests and shaded cliffs in the valley to subalpine zones.
Predicted Suitable Habitat Model

This species has a Predicted Suitable Habitat Model available.

To learn how these Models were created see

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species

Threats or Limiting Factors
Reported threats to Montana's populations of Northern Beechfern include impacts from exotic species and potential displacement by mining activity (MTNHP Threat Assessment 2021). Orange and Meadow Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum and Hieracium caespitosum) populations surround many populations and are tolerant of shady habitat required by Northern Beechfern. Mining activity also poses a range of risks to some populations.

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Kuennen, L. J., and D. Leavell. 1993. Conservation assessment: Thelypteris phegopteris. U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Kootenai National Forest, Libby, MT.
    • Leavell, D.M. 1993. Conservation assessment of Thelypteris phegopteris. Unpublished report of Kootenai National Forest, Libby, Montana. 13 pp. plus appendices.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
    • McLaughin, W. T. 1935. Notes on the flora of Glacier National Park, Montana. Rhodora 37:362-365.
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Citation for data on this website:
Northern Beechfern — Phegopteris connectilis.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from