From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Quillwort)
Jump to: navigation, search
Illustration Isoetes lacustris0.jpg
Isoetes lacustris[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Lycopodiophyta
Class: Isoetopsida
Order: Isoetales
Family: Isoetaceae
Genus: Isoetes

Isoetes (sometimes spelled Isoëtes), commonly known as the quillworts, is a genus of plants in the class Isoetopsida and order Isoetales. They are lycopods. There are about 140–150 species, with a cosmopolitan distribution but often scarce to rare. Some botanists split the genus, separating two South American species into the genus Stylites, although molecular data place these species among other species of Isoetes, so the genus does not warrant taxonomic recognition.[citation needed]


Quillworts are mostly aquatic or semi-aquatic in clear ponds and slow-moving streams, though several (e.g. I. butleri, I. histrix and I. nuttallii) grow on wet ground that dries out in the summer. Quillwort leaves are hollow and quill-like, arising from a central corm. Each leaf is narrow, 2–20 centimetres (0.8–7.9 in) long (exceptionally up to 100 cm or 39 in) and 0.5–3.0 mm (0.02–0.12 in) wide; they can be either evergreen, winter deciduous, or dry-season deciduous. They broaden to a swollen base up to 5 mm (0.20 in) wide where they attach in clusters to a bulb-like, underground rhizome characteristic of most quillwort species, though a few (e.g. I. tegetiformans) form spreading mats. This swollen base also contains male and female sporangia, protected by a thin, transparent covering (velum), which is used diagnostically to help identify quillwort species. They are heterosporous. Quillwort species are very difficult to distinguish by general appearance. The best way to identify them is by examining the megaspores under a microscope.


The genus Isoetes is placed in its own family Isoetaceae. The genus includes about 150 species worldwide.[3][4]

Many species, such as the Louisiana quillwort and the mat-forming quillwort, are endangered species. Several species of Isoetes are commonly called Merlin's grass, especially I. lacustris, but also the endagered species I. tegetiformans and I. virginica.


Fossilised specimens of I. beestonii have been found in rocks dating to the early Triassic.[5] Quillworts are considered by some[5] to be the last remnant of the fossil tree Lepidodendron with which they share some unusual features including the development of both wood and bark, a modified shoot system acting as roots, bipolar growth, and an upright stance.






  1. ^ illustration from Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany
  2. ^ Reichenbach, H. G. L. (1828). Conspectus Regni Vegetabilis. p. 43. 
  3. ^ Taylor, W. Carl; Neil T. Luebke; Donald M. Britton; R. James Hickey; Daniel F. Brunton (1993). "Isoëtaceae". Flora of North America 2. Oxford University Press. p. 64. 
  4. ^ Musselman, Lytton John. 2001. "Georgia quillworts". The Journal of the Georgia Botanical Society 16. 2-19, 40.
  5. ^ a b c Retallack, G. J. (1997). "Earliest Triassic Origin of Isoetes and Quillwort Evolutionary Radiation". Journal of Paleontology 71 (3): 500–521. doi:10.2307/1306630. JSTOR 1306630.  edit

External links[edit]