Mosquito Fern

Scientific Name
Azolla pinnata R.Br. subsp. africana (Desv.) R.M.K.Saunders & K.Fowler
Higher Classification
Azolla africana Desv., Azolla guineensis Schumach., Azolla pinnata R.Br. var. africana (Desv.) Baker
Common Names
Mosquito Fern (e)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
H. Mtshali, F. Cholo & W. Foden
This taxon is widespread, but poorly known. It is suspected to be overlooked, rather than rare or threatened.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
This taxon is widespread across tropical Africa, extending to northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It also occurs in Madagascar.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Indian Ocean Coastal Belt, Savanna
It is found free-floating on water in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, ± 1000 m.
Subpopulations outside protected areas are potentially threatened by competition from alien invasive plants, but in general, there are no severe threats to this taxon.

It is locally abundant in suitable habitat. It is known from only a few, scattered subpopulations in South Africa, but is likely to be overlooked. The population is not suspected to be declining.

Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Azolla pinnata R.Br. subsp. africana (Desv.) R.M.K.Saunders & K.FowlerLeast Concern Raimondo et al. (2009)

Ashton, P.J. and Walmsley, R.D. 1984. The taxonomy and distribution of Azolla species in southern Africa. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 89(3):239-247.

Burrows, J.E. 1990. Southern African ferns and fern allies. Frandsen Publishers, Sandton.

Cook, C.D.K. 2004. Aquatic and wetland plants of southern Africa. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. and Burrows, S.M. 2011. Ferns of southern Africa: A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature, Cape Town.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Roux, J.P. 2001. Conspectus of southern African Pteridophyta. Southern African Botanical Network Report 13:1-223. SABONET, Pretoria.

Saunders, R.M.K. and Fowler, K. 1992. A morphological taxonomic revision of Azolla Lam. section Rhizosperma (Mey.) Mett. (Azollaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 109(3):329-357.

Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. 1970. Pteridophyta. In: A.W. Exell and E. Launert (eds). Flora Zambesiaca:1-254. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London.

Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. and Anthony, N.C. 1986. Pteridophyta. In: O.A. Leistner (ed). Flora of southern Africa:1-292. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Sieben, E.J.J. 2009. The status and distribution of vascular plants (Magnoliophyta, Lycophyta, Pteridophyta). In: W.R.T. Darwall, K.G. Smith, D. Tweddle and P. Skelton (eds.), The status and distribution of freshwater biodiversity in southern Africa (pp. 83-98), IUCN and SAIAB, Gland, Switzerland and Grahamstown, South Africa.

Mtshali, H., Cholo, F. & Foden, W. 2018. Azolla pinnata R.Br. subsp. africana (Desv.) R.M.K.Saunders & K.Fowler. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2024/02/29

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Distribution map

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