Herb: Water Clover

Latin name: Marsilea quadrifolia

Family: Marsileaceae (Water-clover Family)

Medicinal use of Water Clover:

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.

Description of the plant:


20 cm
(7 3/4 inch)

Habitat of the herb:

Ponds and paddy fields all over Japan.

Edible parts of Water Clover:

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.

Propagation of the herb:

Spores. The plant produces sporocarps, these need to be lightly abraded and then immersed in water. The sporocarps will then swell and burst to release the spores. The spores germinate immediately, the highly developed prothallus remains inside the large seed-like spores. The gametophyte generation is completed in 24 hours and the first roots and shoots appear in 2 - 3 days. Mature plants bearing sporocarps can develop in as little as 3 months. Division.

Cultivation of Water Clover:

Ponds and paddy fields all over Japan.

Known hazards of Marsilea quadrifolia:

Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, 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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.