Selaginella - Selaginellaceae

Selaginella volubilis Alston






Common name


Plant with main stem climbing and winding to the left (sinistrovolubile), up to 60–70 cm long and 0.7–0.8 mm in diam., branched, straw-yellow when dry, glabrous; rhizophores in the axils of the branches, recurved, up to 8–10 cm long and c. 0.3 mm in diam., straw-yellow when dry; branches pinnate, more often bipinnate, widely spaced, spreading to erect, 4–8 x 2.5–3.5 cm. Leaves main stem homomorphic, 0.5-1 cm apart, pale green, c. 3 x 1 mm , oblong-lanceolate in outline, apex sharp, base auriculate, margin with small, fine teeth; leaves branches heteromorphic, pale green; lateral leaves subcontiguous, 2.5–3 x 1–1.3 mm , with midrib visible but not quite reaching apex, acute, unequal, half-faced acroscopic half-ovate lanceolate, rounded at the base, long ciliate towards the base and less long towards the apex, basiscopic semi-oblong half face, truncated at the base, loosely ciliate; middle leaves imbricated on the last branches, c. 2 x 1 mm, slightly unequal, ovate-elliptical, auriculate at base, long-ciliate, acuminate at apex; axillary leaves c. 2.5 x 1 mm, ovate-lanceolate, subrounded at base, ciliate (longer below), acute at apex. Strobili solitary at the top of the last branches, tetragonal, c. 1 x 0.2 cm. Sporophylles homomorphic, pale green, c. 2 x 0.8 mm, ovate-triangular in outline, shaped like a spoon, apex long tapering, margins finely toothed; heterospores.


This species has heteromorphic leaves and a main stem that climbs and turns to the left.


volubilis: turning, spinning, rotating; the main stem climbs and twists, an important feature to distinguish this species.


Moist forests and gallery forests, on marshy ground; up to 1600 m altitude.

Distribution worldwide

See African distribution.

Distribution in Africa

Angola, Dem. Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko).

Growth form

Climbing, terrestrial.


  • Bizzarri, M.P. (1985) Selaginellaceae.Flore d' Afrique Centrale, Pages 13 - 14.
  • 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 29.