Jepson eFlora: Taxon page
Vascular Plants of California
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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.
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
Jepson eFlora Author: Alan R. Smith
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)
Listed on CNPS Rare Plant Inventory

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Botanical illustration including Ophioglossum californicum

botanical illustration including Ophioglossum californicum

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Citation for this treatment: Alan R. Smith 2012, Ophioglossum californicum, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on December 06, 2023.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2023, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on December 06, 2023.

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
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Geographic subdivisions for Ophioglossum californicum:
n&c SNF, GV, CCo, SCo, sw PR
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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).


Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.
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All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).