Marsilea L. - Water clover or clover fern.

Photo: BT. Wursten


Description of the genus

The plants mostly look like swamp-grown four-leaved clover!
Fronds with 4 leaflets, arranged symmetrically crosswise at the apex of a stipe, floating in submerged plants. Leaflets herbaceous, obtriangular to obovate. Sori numerous on a gelatinous string-like receptacle attached to the wall of the sporocarp. Sporocarps stalked, borne singly or many together on petioles arising at or near the base of the stipe.

The identification of species of Marsilea on vegetative characters is impossible, mature sporocarps are essential for accurate naming.


Derivation of name:  marsilea: named after Count Luigi Fernandino Marsigli of Bologna (1658-1730), naturalist.

Worldwide: ± 70 species, near cosmopolitan distribution.



We have 27 taxa in the database for Marsilea.

  • Marsilea aegyptiaca Willd.
  • Marsilea aethiopica Launert
  • Marsilea apposita Launert
  • Marsilea berhautii Tardieu
  • Marsilea botryocarpa F.Ballard
  • Marsilea burchellii (Kunze) A. Br.
  • Marsilea capensis A. braun
  • Marsilea coromandelina Willd.
  • Marsilea distorta A. Braun
  • Marsilea ephippiocarpa Alston
  • Marsilea fadeniana Launert
  • Marsilea farinosa Launert ssp. farinosa
  • Marsilea farinosa Launert ssp. arrecta J.E. Burrows
  • Marsilea fenestrata Launert
  • Marsilea gibba A.Braun
  • Marsilea macrocarpa C.Presl
  • Marsilea megalomanica Launert
  • Marsilea minuta L. var. incurva (A.Braun) Launert
  • Marsilea minuta L. var. minuta
  • Marsilea nubica A. Braun var. nubica
  • Marsilea nubica A. Braun var. gymnocarpa (Lepr. ex A. Braun) Launert
  • Marsilea schelpeana Launert
  • Marsilea strigosa Willd.
  • Marsilea subterranea Leprieur ex A. Braun
  • Marsilea unicornis Launert
  • Marsilea vera Launert
  • Marsilea villifolia Brem. & Oberm. ex Alston & Schelpe


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