I went to the coast for Christmas this year and was lucky to get out for a nice walk at a Nature Conservancy property while I was there. I know December is not the best time of the year for botanizing, but I took my camera anyway… I would have been happy to find anything to photograph! Happily, I found a couple of new species to add to the blog, including this very cool Foxtail Clubmoss!
I grabbed some photos and then came home to find out the name of this unusual plant. I learned that Foxtail Clubmoss is a native plant that grows in wet, sandy soils like those found in the Coastal Plain. It can also be found in bogs, swales, and sphagnum seeps, even making a rare appearance locally in Giles County. See the range map below from the Digital Atlas of the Flora of Virginia.
This species of clubmoss grows upright and unbranched, and it is completely covered by numerous small, linear, scale-like leaves. Once it reaches a height of 6-10 inches or so, it has a tendency to fall over and sprawl across the ground.
Reproductive spores are produced in a fluffy cone at the top of each plant, and it is probably this cone that gives the plant its imaginative common name- foxtail clubmoss. It was fun to tap the sporophylls and watch them release clouds of spores into the air.