Background: The lycophytes are an ancient lineage of vascular plants that diverged from the seed plant lineage about 400 Myr ago. Although the lycophytes occupy an important phylogenetic position for understanding the evolution of plants and their genomes, no genomic resources exist for this group of plants. Results: Here we describe the construction of a large-insert bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library from the lycophyte Selaginella moellendorffii. Based on cell flow cytometry, this species has the smallest genome size among the different lycophytes tested, including Huperzia lucidula, Diphaiastrum digita, Isoetes engelmanii and S. kraussiana. The arrayed BAC library consists of 9126 clones; the average insert size is estimated to be 122 kb. Inserts of chloroplast origin account for 2.3% of the clones. The BAC library contains an estimated ten genome-equivalents based on DNA hybridizations using five single-copy and two duplicated S. moellendorffii genes as probes. Conclusion: The S. moellenforffii BAC library, the first to be constructed from a lycophyte, will be useful to the scientific community as a resource for comparative plant genomics and evolution. © 2005 Wang et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.