Selaginella - Selaginellaceae

Selaginella imbricata (Forssk.) Spring ex Decne.

Photo: H. Pickering

Photo: H. Pickering

Photo: J. Laing

Photo: J. Laing

Photo: J. Laing






Lycopodium imbricatum Forsk.

Common name


Plants 5-30 cm high, branched in the upper half and each branch again branching 2 or 3 times, deltoid to ovate-lanceolate in outline, branchlets and leaves curling inwards when dry. Stems erect, tufted or closely spaced, 1 to 3 from a stout, shortly creeping rhizome. Leaves green on upper surface, pale creamy green through beige to almost silvery grey on lower surface, dimorphic, closely overlapping. Upper leaves up to 1.5 × 0.7 mm, ovate to oblong-lanceolate in outline, apex rounded, margin toothed, hyaline. Lateral leaves 1.5-2 × 0.5-1.2 mm, asymmetrically broadly ovate in outline, apex pointed, base adnate to the stem, margin lacerate-serrate and hyaline. Strobili 5-11 mm long, at tips of ultimate branches, male below, female above. Sporophylls uniform, ovate, pointed, margin toothed, smaller and more contracted than the sterile leaves.


A very distinctive species, with erect stems and discolorous leaves, that should not be confused with any other Selaginella.


imbricata: overlapping, refers to the strictly overlapping arrangement of the leaves.


On basalt rock, in calcareous rocky places, in dry deciduous open woodland at the base of rocks or in rock crevices.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, Madagascar.

Distribution in Africa

Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form



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  • Verdcourt, B. (2005) Selaginellaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 8 - 9. (Includes a picture).