Subordinate Taxa
Scientific Name:
Marsilea L., Sp. Pl. 1099 (1753), nom. cons.
Type Taxon:
Marsilea quadrifolia L.
Named in honour of Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli (1656-1730), an Italian soldier and naturalist.
Vernacular Name(s):
four-leaved water clover; nardoo

Aquatic ferns, or ferns of periodically wet places.  Rhizomes short- (not NZ) to long-creeping, branching, bearing roots at nodes, bearing septate hairs or almost glabrous (not NZ).  Leaves monomorphic, not articulated to rhizome, arising at nodes, with 4 obovate or flabellate segments terminating the stalks, herbaceous or coriaceous, glabrous or hairy (not NZ).  Veins anastomosing, without free included veinlets.  Sporocarps globose to ellipsoidal, sessile (not NZ) or stalked, hardened, usually hairy (not NZ) or glabrous, attached at or near the base of the leaf stalks, or on the rhizome near the base of the leaf stalks, opening with two valves, each containing at least two sori.  Each sorus containing both mega- and microsporangia.  Megaspores spheroidal to slightly ellipsoidal, plain to slightly undulate; microspores spheroidal, and plain, papillate or rugulate.


A genus of c. 45 species (Nagalingum et al. 2008) widespread in tropical and warmer temperate regions, with the greatest diversity in Africa and nine species in Australia. One naturalised species in New Zealand.

Number of species in New Zealand within Marsilea L.
Exotic: Fully Naturalised1

The base chromosome number in Marsilea is x = 20 (Smith et al. 2006).


The New World species of Marsilea have been monographed by Johnson (1986), and the Australian species described by Jones (1998).  The phylogeny of Marsilea has been investigated by Nagalingum et al. (2007) and Whitten et al. (2012).  Spores are illustrated by Tryon & Lugardon (1991).

Brownsey, P.J.; Perrie, L.R. 2015: Marsileaceae. In: Breitwieser, I; Heenan, P.B.; Wilton, A.D. (ed.) Flora of New Zealand — Ferns and Lycophytes. Fascicle 8. Manaaki Whenua Press, Lincoln.
Johnson, D.M. 1986: Systematics of the New World species of Marsilea (Marsileaceae). Systematic Botany Monographs 11: 1–87.
Jones, D.L. 1998: Marsileaceae. In: Flora of Australia. Vol. 48. 166–173.
Kramer, K.U.; Green, P.S. 1990: Pteridophytes and gymnosperms. Kubitzki, K. (ed.) The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. Vol. 1. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Linnaeus, C. 1753: Species Plantarum. Impensis Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm.
Nagalingum, N.S.; Nowak, M.D.; Pryer, K.M. 2008: Assessing phylogenetic relationships in extant heterosporous ferns (Salviniales), with a focus on Pilularia and Salvinia. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 157: 673–685.
Nagalingum, N.S.; Schneider, H.; Pryer, K.M. 2007: Molecular phylogenetic relationships and morphological evolution in the heterosporous fern genus Marsilea. Systematic Botany 32: 16–25.
Smith, A.R.; Pryer, K.M.; Schuettpelz, E.; Korall, P.; Schneider, H.; Wolf, P.G. 2006: A classification for extant ferns. Taxon 55(3): 705–731.
Tryon, A.F.; Lugardon, B. 1991: Spores of the Pteridophyta. Springer-Verlag, New York.
Whitten, W.M.; Jacono, C.C.; Nagalingum, N.S. 2012: An expanded plastid phylogeny of Marsilea with emphasis on North American species. American Fern Journal 102: 114–135.