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Ophioglossum californicum

Higher Taxonomy
Family: OphioglossaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: 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 pls. Sporangia: dehiscent into 2 valves, +- 1 mm wide, thick-walled.
Genera In Family: 10 genera, 80--100 species: +- worldwide, generally rare or overlooked.
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 (SCo) 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]
eFlora Treatment Author: Donald R. Farrar, except as noted
Scientific Editor: Alan R. Smith, Bruce G. Baldwin, Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: OphioglossumView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: Roots smooth, pale, generally with bulblets or plantlets. Leaf: trophophore simple, linear to lanceolate or cordate, not midribbed, entire, firm, herbaceous, tip rounded, acuminate, or often mucronate, veins netted with included free branched or unbranched veinlets; sporophore generally > sterile, unbranched, slender. Sporangia: in 2 rows, sunken in a linear, long-stalked axis.
Species In Genus: 20--25 species: generally warm temperate, tropics. Etymology: (Greek: snake's tongue, from extended sporophore of leaf) Note: Incl highest chromosome numbers known in vascular pls.
eFlora Treatment Author: Alan R. Smith

Ophioglossum californicum Prantl
Habit: Caudex < 20 mm, 4 mm wide. Leaf: blade generally +- folded, thick, green, sporophore 1--2.5 × sterile. Sporangia: 8--15 pairs; rows of sporangia 8--15 mm; sterile tip of fertile stalk 0.3--1 mm.
Ecology: Uncommon but sometimes locally abundant, often overlooked. Grassy pastures, chaparral, vernal pool margins; Elevation: 60--450 m. Bioregional Distribution: n&c SNF, GV, CCo, SCo, sw PR; Distribution Outside California: Mexico. Note: Emerges in early spring during rainy periods; probably under-collected.
Synonyms: Ophioglossum lusitanicum L. subsp. californicum (Prantl) R.T. Clausen
eFlora Treatment Author: Alan R. Smith
Jepson Online Interchange
Listed on CNPS Rare Plant Inventory

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botanical illustration including Ophioglossum californicum


Citation for this treatment: Alan R. Smith 2016. Ophioglossum californicum, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on February 14, 2016.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2016. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on February 14, 2016.

Ophioglossum californicum
click for enlargement
© 2006 John Game
Ophioglossum californicum
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© 2015 Keir Morse
Ophioglossum californicum
click for enlargement
© 2015 Keir Morse
Ophioglossum californicum
click for enlargement
© 2015 Keir Morse
Ophioglossum californicum
click for enlargement
© 2015 Keir Morse
Ophioglossum californicum
click for enlargement
© 2015 Keir Morse

More photos of Ophioglossum californicum in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Ophioglossum californicum:
n&c SNF, GV, CCo, SCo, sw PR;
Markers link to CCH specimen records. If the markers are obscured, reload the page [or change window size and reload]. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.
map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).

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Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
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CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time.