Stems compact to short-creeping, usually 4--8 mm diam.; scales often uniformly brown but at least some on each plant with thin, poorly defined, dark, central stripe, linear-lanceolate, straight to slightly contorted, loosely appressed, persistent. Leaves clustered, 7--50 cm; vernation circinate. Petiole dark brown, rounded adaxially. Blade linear-oblong to lanceolate, usually 2-pinnate-pinnatifid at base, 1.5--5 cm wide; rachis rounded adaxially, lacking scales, with monomorphic pubescence. Pinnae not articulate, dark color of stalk continuing into pinna base, basal pair slightly smaller than adjacent pair, ± equilateral, appearing sparsely hirsute adaxially. Costae brown adaxially for most of length; abaxial scales absent. Ultimate segments oblong to lanceolate, not beadlike, the largest 3--5 mm, abaxially and adaxially sparsely hirsute with long, segmented hairs. False indusia marginal, weakly differentiated, 0.05--0.25 mm wide. Sori discontinuous, concentrated on small apical and lateral lobes. Sporangia containing 64 spores. 2 n = 60. Sporulating summer--fall. Rocky slopes and ledges, on a variety of substrates including limestone and granite; 100--800 m; Ala., Ark., Conn., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Kans., Ky., La., Md., Minn., Miss., Mo., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Va., W.Va., Wis. Cheilanthes lanosa is apparently confined to the forests and prairies of eastern North America, and reports of this distinctive species from Arizona and New Mexico (A. J. Petrik-Ott 1979) have not been substantiated by herbarium specimens.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
I have found this species on the exposed cliffs along White River at the McBride Bluffs about 5 miles north of Shoals in Martin County. I have also found it in three places in Perry County. It is infrequent on the stones capping the high cliffs along the Ohio River about 5 miles east of Cannelton, on the top of low, rocky ledges about 8 miles east of Cannelton, and in the shade on a low cliff in the woods of Wm. Stahl about 3 miles south of Mt. Pleasant. The plants were numerous here but were small (mostly less than 2 dm high) because they grew in the shade.
Rhizome rather shortly creeping, its scales lance-linear, 2-3 mm נca 0.3 mm, brown with a dark midstripe in age; lvs somewhat scattered, 1-3 dm, the 2-8 cm petiole much shorter than the blade, purplish, hirsute but not scaly; blade lance-linear, 2-5 cm wide, bipinnate-pinnatifid to subtripinnate, green and sparsely hairy above, villous-hirsute beneath with shining, whitish, jointed hairs; pinnae 12-20 pairs, ovate, petiolulate; pinnules 7-10 pairs, their ultimate segments ovate, obtuse, decurrent, entire, the slightly and irregularly recurved (but otherwise unmodified) margin scarcely covering the few sori; 2n=60. Cliffs and shale outcrops, mostly in subacid soil; Conn. and N.Y. to Wis. and Minn., s. to Ga. and Tex.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.