Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Fern Allies - Clubmosses 1

Tree Clubmoss

This is the first in a short series of profiles on 5-6 clubmosses common to our area. Clubmosses are low-growing evergreen plants, usually found in sandy acidic soils. The "tree clubmoss" (Dendrolycopodium obscurum) is our most common clubmoss, found in much of our deciduous and mixed forests. Being the tallest of the group (usually 4-6" tall, max 10"), they are the only ones you might see still popping their heads above the snow. It at least gives you one new thing to look for this snowy season!

They look like small trees, and usually have 1-6 upright spore-bearing "cones" on the ends of the upper branches. They often grow in large colonies on the forest floor, spreading by underground horizontal stems. There are two relatives which you might find in this area (prickly & Hickeyi), but they are not nearly as common as tree clubmoss.

Two of the cool things about the Lycopodiaceae (clubmosses) is that their spore powder is both hydrophobic and highly flammable when mixed with air. There is a good Youtube video on this. Try googling "Lycopodium Powder Fireball - Cool Science Demo". These properties have made the spore powder useful for magicians and scientists.

Next time: Wolf's Claw Clubmoss!

Stay safe, and enjoy the outdoors!

Janice & Randy