Morphological and molecular studies were carried out on Laurencia oliveirana from the type locality (Arraial do Cabo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). This species is easily recognized by its small size, sub-erect habit forming intricate cushion-like tufts and unilateral pectinate branching. The species displays all the typical characters of the genus Laurencia, such as the production of the first pericentral cell underneath the basal cell of the trichoblast, tetrasporangia produced from particular pericentral cells, with the third and fourth pericentral cells becoming fertile, without production of additional pericentral cells, spermatangial branches produced from one of two laterals on the suprabasal cell of trichoblasts, and procarp-bearing segment with five pericentral cells. Details of tetrasporangial plants and development of procarp and male plants are described for the first time for the species. The phylogenetic position of L. oliveirana was inferred by analysis of the chloroplast-encoded rbcL gene sequences from 57 taxa. In all phylogenetic analyses, L. oliveirana grouped with L. caraibica, L. caduciramulosa, L. venusta and L. natalensis, forming a monophyletic clade within the Laurencia sensu stricto. The genetic divergence between L. oliveirana and the molecularly closest species, L. caraiba collected in Brazil, was 2.3%.