Marsilea - Marsileaceae

Marsilea nubica A. Braun var. gymnocarpa (Lepr. ex A. Braun) Launert

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings






Marsilea gymnocarpa Lepr. ex A. Braun

Common name


Rhizome very slender, repeatedly branched, forming a widespread system, bearing fronds 0.5–2 cm apart. Floating form: stipe up to 18 cm long. Leaflets leaflets rather variable, from broadly obtriangular to very narrowly obtriangular, up to 35 mm long, outer margin uneven with shallow indentations, with short or long brown suberose streaks between the veins of the lower surface. Dry land form: stipe 1.5-6 cm long. Leaflets leaflets rather variable, from broadly obtriangular to very narrowly obtriangular, up to 7 mm long, outer margins entire to very shallowly irregular. Sporocarps: usually single, or crowded at stipe base; very glossy, shiny, dark red brown to black, with a few flattened scales when young becoming glabrous with age, smooth with minute dots, with the black outer layer becoming detached and peeling; broadly to narrowly deltate in lateral view, vertical cross-section elliptic; lower tooth absent, upper tooth a slight hump. Sporocarp with its long axis pointing downwards; pedicels up to 3 mm long, free, arising from the axil of the stipe.


Characteristic for this species is the black, glossy sporocarps, with the outer layer peeling of at maturity.


nubica: from Nubia, from north-east africa (Sudan); gymnocarpa: naked fruit, outer layer of sporocarp peels of leaving it "naked" beneath.


Acacia or Mopane woodland, in sandy soils or fine clay accumulated in seasonally flooded pans, ponds and pools.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, Madagascar.

Distribution in Africa

Angola, Botswana, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Sudan and South Sudan, Tanzania , Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Aquatic, terrestrial.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Pages 67 - 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 228 - 231. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 475 - 476. As M. nubica (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 57.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 177.