Plants of
South Australia
Psilotum nudum
Skeleton Club-moss,
Skeleton Fork-fern
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
Least concern
Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock painting: 1

Prior names

Lycopodium nudum

Common names

Skeleton Club-moss

Skeleton Fork-fern


Psilotum from the Greek 'psilos' meaning bare; referring to the extreme minuteness of the leaves (scales) giving stem an apparent nakedness. Nudum from the Latin 'nudus' meaning naked; referring to the naked nature of the stems. The species is considered a primitive plant and possibly a descendent of the first group of vascular plants and Psilotum nudum means "bare naked" because it lacks most of the organs of modern vascular plants.

Distribution and status

Found only in one location in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia, growing on exposed rock-crevices. Also found in all mainland states (and Norfolk Is., New Zealand, Easter Is., tropical parts of all continents). Native. Very rare in South Australia. Rare in Western Australia and Victoria. Common in the other states.
Herbarium regions: Southern Lofty, Green Adelaide
NRM region: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Erect to somewhat pendent terrestrial fern-like plant to 60 cm high, without roots but have rhizome that are mycorrhizal and bears rhizoids. Aerial stems yellow-green, much-branched towards the tips, circular to triangular in section. Leaves scale-like, sparse, spirally arranged on stem-ridges, less than 3 mm long, green and fleshy when young then dry and colourless to brown. Fruits are yellow synangium (a fused aggregate of sporangia) to 3 mm diameter produced in place of scales in younger parts of plant. Seeds are very tiny spores.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between August and October. Collect synangium that are fat and turning yellow, these will contain mature sporohylls with spores. Place them in a seal paper bag to prevent spores from fulling out. Leave fronds in the paper bag to dry. The spores will fall off naturally or give the fronds a gentle shake. Use a very fine sieve to separate any unwanted material. Be careful as the spores are very fine. Store spores in an air tight container in a cool and dry place or in a -20oC freezer.