Stem scales weakly bicolored, margins brown, very narrow and poorly defined, thin, ciliate-denticulate. Leaves 4–20 cm. Petiole brown, equal to or somewhat longer than blade, rounded adaxially, bearing scattered glands and a few scales near base. Blade broadly pentagonal, 3-pinnate, 1–2 times longer than wide, abaxially with conspicuous white or yellow farina, scales absent, adaxially glandular; basal pinnae much larger than adjacent pair, strongly inequilateral, proximal basiscopic pinnules greatly enlarged. Ultimate segments sessile to subsessile, narrowly adnate to costae or free; segment margins recurved but rarely concealing sporangia. Sporangia containing 32 spores.
Ariz., Calif., Mexico.
Subspecies 2 (2 in the flora).
Notholaena californica comprises two distinct chemotypes, recognizable by farina color, that are treated here as subspecies. These white and yellow forms are strikingly different in chemical composition of the farina (E. Wollenweber 1984), and they are rarely, if ever, found growing at the same locality. Gene flow between the chemotypes in the region of sympatry (southern California) is prevented because both are apogamous in this area. The recent discovery that plants of N. californica subsp. californica from Arizona are pentaploids (M. D. Windham, unpublished data) suggests that this species has a complex evolutionary history that cannot be resolved until sexually reproducing (64-spored) progenitors are found.