Ophioglossum - Ophioglossaceae

Ophioglossum vulgatum L. ssp. africanum Pocock ex J.E. Burrows var. africanum

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: JE. Burrows
South Africa

Photo: JE. Burrows
South Africa






Ophioglossum vulgatum sensu Schelpe; Schelpe & Diniz; Kornas; Schelpe & Anthony; non O.vulgatum sensu stricto

Common name


Rhizome short, linear to oval, c. 1-3 cm long; old leaf bases absent; roots horizontal, proliferous. Leaves 1, held at 60-80° from the horizontal. Petiole up to 16 cm long, subterranean for 25-50 % of its length. Sterile lamina 25-90 × 13-40 mm, ovate or narrowly ovate to sometimes lanceolate in outline, apex pointed, base wedge-shaped, sometimes with a pseudo-petiole up to 2 cm long; fertile segment 8-16.5 cm long, slender; Sporangia 19-46 pairs, apex pointed.


O. vulgatum subsp. africanum resembles O. polyphyllum, the latter however has old persistent leaf bases present at the top of the rhizome. O. reticulatum has bright green leaves, ovate to suborbicular in outline with a cordate or truncate base.


vulgatum: common; africanum: of Africa.


Seasonally moist areas in montane grassland, ecotone between grassland and evergreen forest, on shallow soils overlying sheetrock, rarely in deciduous woodland.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, possibly Madagascar and the Comoro Islands.

Distribution in Africa

Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania , Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form



  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 44. As O. vulgatum L. (Includes a picture).
  • Burrows, J.E. & Johns, R.J. (2001) Ophioglossaceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . Pages 15 - 16. (Includes a picture).
  • Burrows, J.E., Edwards, T.J. (1993) Nomenclatural changes and additions to the genus Ophioglossum in Africa (Ophioglossaceae: Pteridophyta).Bothalia, 23(2) Page 189. (Includes a picture).
  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature. Pages 110 - 111. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 164 - 165. As O. vulgatum L. (Includes a picture).
  • Kornas, J. (1979) Distribution and ecology of the Pteridophytes in Zambia. Polska Akademia Nauk Wydzial II Nauk Biologicznych. Page 39. As O. vulgatum L.
  • Roux, J.P. (2009) Synopsis of the Lycopodiophyta and Pteridophyta of Africa, Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Strelitzia 23, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Page 35.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 34.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta.Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Page 37. As O. vulgatum L.