Have you ever noticed greenery along a trail that was giving both plant vibes ✨🪴 AND moss vibes🌟💚 ? And then wondered what it may be? No? Just me?
Lycopodium digitatum "Running Cedar" North Carolina, May 2023
Well this is a post I've been excited to make ever since a Park Ranger at Raven Rock State Park pointed out some 'Clubmoss' back in 2015. After taking a closer look at it, all the sudden I started noticing it everywhere. Turns out these plants are full of interesting characteristics, so let's dive in!
Clubmoss is a category of plants belonging to the Lycopdodiaceae family. Wendy Diaz of the The Durham Master Gardeners describes them as:
"[...] Ancient plants (evolving over 400 million years ago) that look like mosses and have reproductive parts that resemble clubs, hence the family name."
At first glance these may resemble cedar boughs or other conifers, but they're actually closely related to ferns as they reproduce via spores rather than seeds.
🧠 🤓 Learn more about ferns ➡️ here ⬅️
Lycopodiales are vascular plants which means they can have a tissue structure that allows them to transport water and nutrients along different parts of the plant.
Speaking of getting 'eye-level' with lycopodiales, roughly 300 million years ago plants just like these grew to towering heights and created forests that dominated the landscape! Can you imagine??
Well if you can't here is a gallery of photos taken from a worm's-eye-view to help:
The 'club moss' we see most frequently around central North Carolina is Lycopodium digitatum (or Diphasiastrum digitatum) which has multiple common names including 'Running Cedar,' 'Ground Cedar,' 'Fan Club Moss,' and 'Bears Paw.' In the gallery above you'll see an examples of the spiraled leaves attached to stems that run along the ground horizontally. The second photo features the erect shoots, or peduncles, of these plants which holds multiple cone-like structures called strobili where spores are produced.