Stems slender, creeping, sparingly scaly; scales dark brown to chestnut brown. Leaves clustered to closely spaced, to 1 m. Petiole straw-colored to light brown distally, darker proximally, 10–50 cm, base sparsely scaly. Blade irregularly ovate, primarily and irregularly pedately divided, 10–30 × 6–25 cm; rachis not winged; only terminal pinna decurrent on rachis. Pinnae 1–3 pairs, well separated, blade often 5-parted with terminal pinna and 2 lateral pairs of pinnae remaining green through winter, not articulate; sterile pinnae to 25 × 0.8–1.5 cm, serrulate; fertile pinnae narrower than sterile pinnae, to ca. 11 mm wide, spiny-serrate; base acute acroscopically and decurrent (sometimes narrowly and barely so) basiscopically, glabrous; proximal pinnae with 1 (rarely 2) basiscopic lobes. Veins free, simple or forked. Sori narrow, blade tissue exposed abaxially.
Fla., La., Widely scattered in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.
Pteris cretica is almost pantropical in distribution (C. V. Morton 1957). Because this species is so commonly and widely cultivated and appears to escape easily in warmer regions, its native range is uncertain.
Young leaves of young plants of Pteris multifida may key to P. cretica because only the terminal pinnae may be decurrent on the rachis as in P. cretica. Juveniles of P. multifida can be separated by proximal pinnae with long-attenuate apices and thinner-textured leaves than P. cretica. Juveniles of P. cretica have proximal pinnae with acute to blunt or nearly rounded apices and thicker-textured leaves.
Varieties 2 (2 in the flora).