It is the first of January! Happy New Year!
At our house, we welcomed the new year with a walk in the woods with our new puppy, Grace. When she grows up, she’ll be my new photography assistant, but for now, she just tags along and enjoys all the great smells in the forest.
The woods are mostly drab right now, but I was struck by the beautiful evergreen ground covers that we found in some areas. These plants are called “club mosses” and I think they’ll make a nice winter addition to the blog, even though they are technically not “flowers”.
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.
Let’s start with Shining Clubmoss, (AKA Shining Firmoss), which I found today 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! Check out the photos below and then keep an eye out for this cute little clubmoss on your next winter hike!