Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Fern Allies - Clubmosses 4

Shining Fir Moss

The Shining Fir Moss (Huperzia lucidula) is in a different Genus from the other clubmosses we have looked at so far. It is the most common and widespread fir moss in our region. It is found in moist acidic woodlands throughout the Northeast and down into PA.

The outstanding features for me are the upright bristly stems which are single or usually just once forked, shiny evergreen leaves that are generally wider in the upper half, no horizontal stem along the ground, and the yellow kidney shaped sporangia which are found along the upper part of the stem at the base of the leaves, rather than in cones at the tip of the stem. The red arrow I added in the photo above points to some of these yellow sporangia. Sporangia are the structures in which spores are formed, and from which they are released.

Another unusual feature of the Shining Fir Moss, but often harder to see, is that they form gemmae, little plantlets, in the upper portions of mature stems. These allow the clubmoss to reproduce vegetatively when they drop off, root in the ground and form identical new plants. They still also reproduce by spores.

We have been noticing the Shining Fir Moss are on walks again, now that the snow is almost gone. You can tell them apart from the Wolf's Claw or Running Clubmoss in a few ways. Primarily because Wolf's Claw has a horizontal stem along the ground, and the stems are branched much more often, and are overall more sprawling than upright in appearance.