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Donald R. Farrar, except as noted

Perennial herb, small, fleshy, generally glabrous; caudex generally underground, unbranched; roots glabrous with bulblets or plantlets or not. Leaf: generally 1 per caudex per year, divided into 2 facing parts with a common stalk,(0)1 sterile and 1(2) fertile (fertile occasionally aborted); sterile photosynthetic part (trophophore) separated from spore-bearing part (sporophore) at to well above ground level; trophophore simple to compound, veins free and forked or netted with included veinlets; sporophore simple to compound, or 0 in young plants. Sporangia: dehiscent into 2 valves, ± 1 mm wide, thick-walled.
10 genera, 80–100 species: ± worldwide, generally rare or overlooked. [Hauk et al. 2003 Molec Phylogen Evol 28:131–151; Kato 1987 Gard Bull Straits Settlem 40:1–14] —Scientific Editors: Alan R. Smith, Bruce G. Baldwin, Thomas J. Rosatti.
Unabridged note: Distantly related to most (leptosporangiate) ferns. Haploid (gametophyte) generation underground. Both diploid and haploid generations obligately mycorrhizal. The family Psilotaceae (whisk ferns, 2 genera), sister to Ophioglossaceae, is represented in California (South Coast) by 1 (of 2 total) apparently introduced species, Psilotum nudum (L.) P. Beauv. Psilotum is easily distinguished by the dichotomously branching, almost leafless green stems, lack of roots, and large (2–3 mm) 3-lobed sporangia; sporangia are borne on the adaxial (upper) side of a minute (± 1 mm) forked leaf. Pantrop, subtrop (nearest native populations in Arizona and in Sonora, Mexico); expected in cultivation areas, especially at bases of old palms, possibly brought in on root masses as subterranean gametophytes. [Pryer et al. 2004 Amer J Bot 91:1582–1598]

Key to Ophioglossaceae

Roots smooth or cork-ridged, dark gray, without bulblets or plantlets. Leaf: evergreen for 1 year; bud hairy; sporophore and trophophore joined near or at ground level; trophophore generally 2–3-pinnate, deltate to ternately triangular, fleshy, leathery, ultimate segments midribbed, veins free, forked; sporophore 1–3-pinnate, aborted in young plants. Sporangia: not sunken in axis; stalk 0 or short.
15–20 species: generally temperate to arctic or alpine. (Greek: scepter, staff, from tall upright sporophore)

Previous taxon: Ophioglossum pusillum
Next taxon: Sceptridium multifidum


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Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2013. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Nov 26 2015
Citation for this treatment: [Author of taxon treatment] 2013. Sceptridium, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Nov 26 2015

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