Psilotaceae - Whisk ferns

Photo: BT. Wursten


Description of the family

Epiphytic or lithophytic perennial plants. Rhizome shortly creeping, dichotomously or laterally branched, with endophytic mycorrhiza, without roots, with short and long rhizoids. Aerial stems linear, chlorophyllous, erect or pendulous, dichotomously branched, simple towards the base. Leaves much reduced, simple, scale-like, lacking a midrib, without ligules. Sporangia in globular, thick-walled synangia composed of 2 or 3 fused sporangia, exindusiate, homosporus.

Worldwide: 2 genera and 12 species. Tmesipteris confined to tropical Asia and western Oceania, Psilotum has a pantropical distribution.



  • Psilotum Sw.


  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M.2011Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature.
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G.1983The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria.
  • Roux, J.P.2001Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13: 1-222.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E.1970Pteridophyta. Flora Zambesiaca, 0: 1-254.