Shining Clubmoss

Huperzia lucidula

It is the first of January! Happy New Year!

In Blacksburg it was a quiet day with mild temperatures and gray skies.  We took a walk in the woods in a pretty part of town, just at the foot of Brush Mountain. We have a new puppy at our house, and she needs lots of exercise, so we soon left the trail and tramped directly through the woods, just to give her a bit more exercise. Grace loves dodging around over sticks and logs while exploring all of the delicious smells on the forest floor.

What really caught my eye today were the patches of evergreen clubmoss carpeting the otherwise drab woods. Seeing that reminded me that I never posted anything about clubmoss on this blog–something I have meant to do long ago, but never got around to it.  So I grabbed a few photos today and brought them home for my first post of the new year.

Shining clubmoss and ground cedar
Shining Clubmoss with Ground Cedar

Clubmosses are interesting vascular plants, because they reproduce by spores instead of by flowers and seeds. Taxonomically, they are grouped into the class Lycopodiopsida. This group includes plants that are known locally as groundcedar (or running cedar/fan clubmoss), ground pine (or Prince’s Pine), and shining firmoss. You’ll note that all these names invoke evergreen trees, probably because the clubmosses stay green all year long and have a waxy cuticle not unlike pine and fir trees. However, unlike trees, this group of plants is low-growing and spreads by above-ground runners or below-ground rhizomes.

Shining clubmoss
Shining Clubmoss

Today, I was excited about finding Shining Clubmoss, (AKA Shining Firmoss) mixed in with a stand of the more common ground cedar.

Wikipedia describes this unusual plant as follows:

Huperzia lucidula (or shining firmoss or shining clubmoss) grows in loose tufts 14-20 cm long, occasionally up to 1 m long. The leaves are 7-11 mm long, narrow, lance-shaped, shiny, and evergreen. The edges are irregularly toothed. The sporangia (spore cases) are nestled in the bases of the upper leaves.

The roots of shining clubmoss grow from a creeping, branching, underground rhizome.

Its habitat includes rich, acid soils in cool, moist coniferous and mixed hardwood forests, bog and stream edges, and hillsides. They occasionally grow on cliffs and ledges and on shady, mossy, acidic sandstone.

The specific name lucidula comes from the Latin and means “shining“. This is in reference to the plants bright, vivid green color.”

Wikipedia’s description sounds pretty accurate, so I’ll just stop right there!  Keep an eye out for this cute little clubmoss on your next winter hike!

Update April 2017: Spotted some shining clubmoss in the Rock Castle Creek gorge last weekend!

shining clubmoss

2 Comments Add yours

  1. John Lindner says:

    Thank you, Gloria, so much for this email. As far as I can tell, this is the first such email I got from you. Where have you been all my life? How did I get on your list? I love it.

    I have several patches of Ground Cedar in my woods. I love it.

    I don’t know if your email accepts responses or whether you will reply or not, but please keep me on your list. God bless,

    Happy New Year John

  2. patteecee says:

    Gloria, great to hear from you! I appreciate this post on a very interesting plant and look forward to getting out to find some club mosses myself. Happy New Year with many happy trails to you.

    Found this good ref on the topic:

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