Psilotum - Psilotaceae

Psilotum nudum (L.) P. Beauv.

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten






Psilotum triquetrum Sw.
Lycopodium nudum L.
Bernhardia capensis Müll.Berol.

Common name


Rhizome c.1.5 mm in diameter, shortly creeping, rootless, covered with very small scales. Aerial stems 15-44 cm long, unbranched below, repeatedly dichotomously branched above with 20-36 branches, markedly angled and triangular in cross-section, glabrous. Leaves few, widely spaced, lanceolate to ovate in outline, scale-like, pointed, up to 2 mm long. Sporangia c.2.5 mm in diameter, united in 3-locular capsule-like synangium, placed in the axis of a small bract, scattered along the apical region of the stem, orange brown when mature, dehiscing longitudinally to release the spores.


Very distinctive, can not be mistaken for any other pteridophyte in Africa.


nudum: naked; referring to the almost leafless character of this species.


Cracks in sandstone cliffs, usually along a river or as an epiphyte on trees in evergreen forest at low altitude.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, Cape Verde Isl., Madagascar, Ascencion Isl., Seychelles, Mascarenes. Also Polynesia, the Americas, Spain, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand.

Distribution in Africa

Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Dem. Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko), Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania , Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Epiphytic, lithophytic.


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  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature. Pages 130 - 131. (Includes a picture).
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  • Thardieu-Blot, M.L. (1964) Ptéridophytes vol.8.Flore du Gabon, Page 28.
  • Verdcourt, B. (1999) Psilotaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 1 - 3. (Includes a picture).