Heterosporous ferns (Salviniales) are a group of approximately 70 species that produce two types of spores (megaspores and microspores). Earlier broad-scale phylogenetic studies on the order typically focused on one or, at most, two species per genus. In contrast, our study samples numerous species for each genus, wherever possible, accounting for almost half of the species diversity of the order. Our analyses resolve Marsileaceae, Salviniaceae and all of the component genera as monophyletic. Salviniaceae incorporate Salvinia and Azolla; in Marsileaceae, Marsilea is sister to the clade of Regnellidium and Pilularia– this latter clade is consistently resolved, but not always strongly supported. Our individual species-level investigations for Pilularia and Salvinia, together with previously published studies on Marsilea and Azolla (Regnellidium is monotypic), provide phylogenies within all genera of heterosporous ferns. The Pilularia phylogeny reveals two groups: Group I includes the European taxa P. globulifera and P. minuta; Group II consists of P. americana, P. novae-hollandiae and P. novae-zelandiae from North America, Australia and New Zealand, respectively, and are morphologically difficult to distinguish. Based on their identical molecular sequences and morphology, we regard P. novae-hollandiae and P. novae-zelandiae to be conspecific; the name P. novae-hollandiae has nomenclatural priority. The status of P. americana requires further investigation as it consists of two geographically and genetically distinct North American groups and also shows a high degree of sequence similarity to P. novae-hollandiae. Salvinia also comprises biogeographically distinct units – a Eurasian group (S. natans and S. cucullata) and an American clade that includes the noxious weed S. molesta, as well as S. oblongifolia and S. minima. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 157, 673–685.