Marsilea - Marsileaceae

Marsilea subterranea Leprieur ex A. Braun






Common name


Rhizome slender, wiry, repeatedly branched, hairless except for the usually villous nodes; internodes 0.5–5 cm long. Stipes rather slender, wiry, erect, straight or curved, 1–10(–15) cm long, usually quite hairless, rarely with scattered long hairs. Leaflets grass-green to olive-green, obtriangular to narrowly obtriangular in outline, usually slightly asymmetrical, 6–11(–15) mm long, 4–8(–11) mm wide, with the sides curved inwards or straight, outer edge rounded to almost straight, irregularly crenate or dentate, rarely entire, with long linear pellucid streaks between the veins (the edges of these streaks appear prominent as parallel ridges on the lower surface of the leaflets), with scattered long hairs to almost hairless. Pedicels free at the base, spreading or deflexed, flexuous, often encircling the entire sporocarp, usually growing downwards and thus burying the sporocarp in the soil, terete, rather slender, 4–12(–14) mm long. Sporocarps usually crowded at the very base of the stipes, brown, broadly elliptic to oblong-elliptic in lateral view, elliptic in the dorso-ventral cross-section, 3.5–4.5 mm long, 2.7–3.3 mm wide, 1.8–2.5 mm thick, not bordered, always densely set with brown hairs; lateral ribs 6–12, visible to a varying degree, rarely invisible; lower tooth represented as the somewhat recurved apex of the raphe, always distinct, prominent, obtuse; upper tooth obsolete, just indicated by a circular area above the lower one, very rarely slightly raised.




Seasonally flooded pans and pools, edges of small streams, on black cracking clay in a drying up waterhole.

Distribution worldwide

See African distribution.

Distribution in Africa

Chad, Malawi, Senegal, Tanzania .

Growth form

Aquatic, terrestrial.


  • Launert, E. (2003) Marsileaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Page 5. (Includes a picture).
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 177.