Marsilea - Marsileaceae

Marsilea distorta A. Braun






Common name


Stipe up to 10 cm long, wiry, usually hairless. Leaflets slightly asymmetrical, obdeltate, 6-11 × 4-8 mm, outer margins irregularly crenate-dentate, long pellucid streaks between the veins. Sporocarps: crowded, in clusters at the base of the stipe, brown, 3.5-4.5 mm long, 2.75-3.25 mm high, 1.8-2.5 mm thick, broadly elliptic to oblong-elliptic in lateral view, vertical cross-section elliptic, densely covered with brown hairs; lower tooth prominent appearing as a recurved apex of the raphe, upper tooth absent or present as a dark circular spot. Pedicels 4-12 mm long, free, twisted, pigtail-like curved, flexuose, usually growing downwards and thus burying the sporocarps in the ground, several arising from the base of the stipe.


It differs from other species in having translucent streaks between the veins in the leaflets, the sporocarp is lacking a superior tooth and has a stalk that is conspicuously curved and twisted.


distorta: deformed or twisted, referring to the pigtail-like curved pedicels of the sporocarps.


Seasonally flooded areas, swamp and lake shores.

Distribution worldwide

Distribution in Africa

Burkina Fasso, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania , Zimbabwe.

Growth form



  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 68. (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 232 - 233. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 476 - 477. (Includes a picture).
  • 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 56.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 175.