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Botanical Name:Marsilea quadrifolia
Species: M. quadrifolia
Common names:Four Leaf Clover’;Water shamrock, European waterclover (USA); Sushni in parts of India
English: European pepperwort, European waterclover
French: fougere d’eau
Spanish: aigret, viola
Bengali: Susni Sak
Habitat:Grows in shallow water of lakes, ponds, or quiet sections of rivers and streams and on wet shores. It is found in central and southern Europe, Caucasia, western Siberia, Afghanistan, sw India, China, Japan and North America. Considered a weed in some parts of the United States where it has been well established in the north eastern States for over 100 years.
It is native to Europe; it was introduced to America in 1862. It is considered to be potentially invasive in New England, as it may crowd out native wetland plants by forming dense stands. More on this topic from Invasive Plant Atlas of New England.
Water shamrock, despite its common name, is not related to shamrocks (or clover or pepper) — it is a fern.It is a deciduous plant and grows random.
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Aquatic fern bearing 4 parted leaf resembling ‘4-leaf clover’ (Trifolium). Leaves floating in deep water or erect in shallow water or on land. Leaflets obdeltoid, to 3/4″ long, glaucous, petioles to 8″ long; sporocarps ellipsoid, to 3/16″ long, dark brown, on stalks to 3/4″ long, attached to base of petioles.Stipe (leaf stalk) are green, slender and flexible.
The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist or wet soil and can grow in water.
Marsilea quadrifolia can be grown as a potted plant, either just with soil kept wet, or semi-submerged, with fronds emergent from the water, or fully-submerged, with the fronds floating on the surface of the water.
In the aquarium, water clover is grown fully submerged, usually in the foreground where it spreads by means of runners. It normally seems to be unfussy as to light and water conditions, and doesn’t need a rich substrate.
Marsileas are very easy to germinate from their sporocarps. However, the sporocarps must be abraded, cracked, or have an edge sliced off before submerging them in water so that the water can penetrate to swell the tissues, and germination is infrared-light dependent. Full sunlight is fine for this purpose.
Propagation: Spores and possibly by birds or dispersal by flowing water (Johnson, 1986; pp. 35-39). “Vegetatively by means of creeping rhizomes or following dispersal and establishment of rhizome fragments”
Edible Parts: Leaves; Seed………..Young stems and leaves. A famine food, only used in times of scarcity. The spores are produced in a sporocarp (like a fairly large container) and in allied species this is ground up and mixed with flour etc and used in making bread etc. It is rich in starch.
A juice made from the leaves is diuretic and febrifuge. It is also used to treat snakebite and applied to abscesses etc. The plant is anti-inflammatory, diuretic, depurative, febrifuge and refrigerant.
Known Hazards: Although no toxicity report for this species is found, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.