Marsilea quadrifolia

Common Name: European water clover 
Type: Fern
Family: Marsileaceae
Native Range: Warm temperate Europe, northern Asia, eastern United States
Zone: 6 to 10
Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Spread: 0.25 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Water Plant, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Tolerate: Rabbit, Heavy Shade


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 6-10. In water gardens, grow in containers submerged in up to 6” of water or on wet banks. Also may be grown on the margins of a pond. Best in full sun to part shade, but tolerates full shade. Thin plants as needed. Plants are not reliably winter hardy throughout the St. Louis area where consideration should be given to overwintering a few plants each year.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Marsilea quadrifolia, commonly called water clover or pepperwort, is native to Europe. It is an aquatic fern that grows from creeping rhizomes anchored in the muddy bottoms of shallow ponds and lakes. It has escaped cultivation and naturalized in much of the Northeastern U.S. west to Iowa and Missouri. From creeping rhizomes, thin green stalks rise to the water surface, each stalk bearing a single shamrock-like leaf with four wedge-shaped leaflets. Leaves usually float on or just below the water surface, however in very shallow water (2-3” deep) the stalks often are able emerge 3-4” above the surface.

Genus name honors Italian botanist Count Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli (1656-1730) of Bologna.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Transitional plant for water gardens and ponds. Bog gardens.