Clubmoss

At this time of the year when we’re in the “summer doldrums”, the birds for the most part have gone quiet. Most of our neo-tropical birds have completed their instinctual responsibility of raising families and are now preparing to move south. In fact, according to the MOU (Minnesota Ornithologists Union) the summer season ended on July 31st. We are now in the fall season and that means fall migration.

It’s a great time to start looking down instead of looking up for birds in the trees. In many areas, the ground of the northern forest is covered with a unique plant called Clubmoss. The Botanical name, Lycopodium can be loosely translated into “club-shaped wolf’s claw”, and the vernacular names of some of the species reflect this. In Voyageur  Country we can find 5 different species of Clubmoss. Clubmoss is a low growing evergreen plant (you can find it under the snow in the dead of winter) and it isn’t really a moss. They are a nonflowering plant that is more like a fern. Colonies of Lycopodiaceaegrow along branching horizontal stems that crisscross the ground, sending down roots as they grow. They also reproduce by releasing spores into the air. The spores are carried in slender erect cones or “strobiles”.

Princess Pine

Princess Pine

Probably the most familiar Clubmoss is the Round-branched Ground-Pine, Lycopodium dendroideum, or more commonly known as Princess Pine. These neat little plants look just like a miniature Spruce Tree and they almost look like a seedling of that tree.

Stiff Clubmoss

Stiff Clubmoss

Another commonly found Clubmoss is Stiff Clubmoss, L. annotinum. This plant features individual cones on the top of short stems. Plants may reach 12 inches tall.

Shining Clubmoss

Shining Clubmoss

Shining Clubmoss, L. lucidulum, looks very much like Stiff Clubmoss, but it does not have the cones, or strobiles, like the others. The spores are hidden at the juncture of the leaves and the stem of the plant.

Running Clubmoss

Running Clubmoss

Running Clubmoss, L. clavatum, is easily recognized by its trailing habit. The strobiles usually occur in pairs atop a single slender stalk. This one is also known as Wolf’s Claw Clubmoss or Running Pine. The plant is gone from parts of its historic range because the tiny evergreen was over-collected for winter decorations.

Ground-Cedar

Ground-Cedar

Ground-Cedar, L. complanatum, is a Clubmoss that is not so common, but can still be found in isolated pockets in the woods. I think this is my favorite little plant, they really do resemble tiny Cedar trees. Another name for this plant is “Staghorn Pine”.

miniature Forest of Clubmosses

miniature Forest of Clubmosses

Next time you’re in the woods, get down close to the ground and take note of the Clubmosses, it can almost feel like you are in an elfin forest. I can just imagine little fairies running around in this Lilliputian world celebrating life among nature at its finest.

This entry was posted in Crane Lake Area. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Clubmoss

  1. Carol Schuster says:

    Thank you. Thank you. for differentiating these sometimes confusing plants.

  2. Kris Driessen says:

    Thanks for the great pics. I believe I have Princess Pine. I had never seen this before today. Since a terrible storm this summer, i’m finding new things in my forest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.