Marsilea - Marsileaceae

Marsilea unicornis Launert






Common name


Floating form: stipe 13-20 cm long. Leaflets obtriangular in outline, usually hairless, outer margin rounded, subentire to bilobed. Dry land form: stipe 15-12 cm long. Leaflets 5-15 x 2-11 mm, outer margins bilobate to shallowly incised , rarely entire, thinly set with long hairs to hairless. Sporocarps: solitary, 5-7 x 3.5-4.8 mm; rectangular to bean-shaped in outline, flanks concave, grooved dorsally, ventrally and distally, densely set with long hairs when young, at maturity becoming hairless and almost black; lower tooth absent, upper tooth prominent, sharply acute, usually somewhat curved. Pedicels 6-17 mm long, erect, slender, slightly curved, free, arising from the axil of the stipe.


Sporocarps are produced on dry land only.


unicornis: one horn; a reference to the single, prominent upper tooth on the sporocarp of this species.


Along sandy riverbeds, in vleis and along the margins of seasonal pools in semi-arid scrub and Acacia-dominated woodland.

Distribution worldwide

See African distribution.

Distribution in Africa

Angola, Namibia.

Growth form

Aquatic, terrestrial.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 75. (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 250 - 251. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Page 484. (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 58.