Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Fern Allies - Clubmosses 3

Southern Ground Cedar or Fan Clubmoss

The Southern Ground Cedar (Diphasiastrum digitatum) is probably the second most common clubmoss in our area, after Tree Clubmoss (Dendrolyopodium obscurum). It is found throughout New England, growing in sandy acidic soils in woods, fields and clearings. It is a low creeping evergreen with horizontal stems on the ground or in the leaf litter. I find these stems helpful in identification of this species. You can see these stems in the right hand side of the photo.

The attractive fan-shaped leaves are long, narrow and flattened, with the smallest lowest on the stems. The stalks bearing the 2-4 fertile cones (strobili), are often twice-forked at nearly the same point, creating a somewhat candlelabra effect.

Although the Tree Clubmoss can sometimes look somewhat similar in form, these leaves are not frilly like D.obscurum; they are narrow and flattened. Another big difference is obscurum has underground horizontal stems, and these run along the ground.

As the snow starts to disappear, these clubmosses will be more obvious. This photo is from a powerline right-of-way this past weekend. If the pandemic starts to wane, we may be able to schedule a walk to see and compare the six different clubmosses found at this site. A really nice place to visit!