In the midst of winter in northern Virginia, it is without doubt a delight to see environment-friendly plants. Numerous of ours ferns and fern

“allies” are evergreen, adding color to our woods in the late fall and winter months. Fern allies include the horsetails, clubmosses, spikemosses, and quillworts. In this article, us will consider the clubmosses or “lycopodiums.”

The typical name “clubmoss” is based upon the premise the at first glance this plants resemble mosses (mosses space bryophytes and thus, non-vascular plants), and because they regularly have club-like frameworks that produce spores. Clubmosses are all perennial evergreen plants through numerous small leaves. Individual plants in many species are associated by horizontal stems that run above ground (runners) or listed below ground (rhizomes); the actual root are fairly shallow. No one of the clubmosses are flowering plants, yet all room vascular plants with an interesting strategy of publication spores at a life phase that couple of people see—outside that a science lab.

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Worldwide, there space 10 come 15 genera and also 350 to 400 types of clubmosses. In the northern Virginia counties extending to the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are 12 types of clubmosses or “lycopodiums.” In the past, these were classified in a single genusLycopodium (lyco, wolf; podium, footbut in the new Flora that Virginia and other modern sources, this twelve varieties are now inserted in 6 genera, together summarized in the graph below:

Species of clubmoss Synonyms typical names

DendrolycopodiumdendroideumLycopodium obscurum var.dendroideum;Lycopodium dendroideumTree Ground-pine
DendrolycopodiumhickeyiLycopodium obscurum varhickeyiHickey’s tree-clubmoss
DendrolycopodiumobscurumLycopodium obscurumCommon tree-clubmoss
 Diphasiastrumdigitatum Lycopodium digitatum; Lycopodium flabelliformeCommon running-cedar/pine
DiphasiastrumtristachyumLycopodium tristachyumGround-cedar, blue running-cedar
 Huperzia appressaLycopodium selagoAppalachian fir clubmoss
Huperzia lucidulaLycopodium lucidulumShining clubmoss or shining firmoss
 Lycopodiellaalopecuroides Lycopodium alopecuroidesFoxtail clubmoss
LycopodiellaappressaLycopodium appressaSouthern bog clubmoss
LycopodiellainundataLycopodium inundatumNorthern bog clubmoss
 Lycopodiumclavatum Lycopodium clavatumRunning clubmoss or staghorn clubmoss
Spinulum annotinumLycopodium annotinumStiff/bristly clubmoss

Clubmosses or Lycophytes evolved some 410 million years back as among the earliest groups of vascular plants (plants with special tissues xylem and phloem to conduct water and food, respectively, in this team of plants). Part 300-plus million year ago, tree forms of both clubmosses and also horsetails along with ferns overcame the an excellent coal swamps that the Carboniferous geology period. Tree creates of tree clubmosses that as soon as reached heights the 100 feet have actually left fantastic fossil document of the woody organization of tree forms.

Clubmosses, together with horsetails and also ferns, have a primitive reproductive strategy. In many species of society mosses, club-like projections or “candles” held over the tiny leaved, conifer-like trunk are known as strobili (strobilus, singular form) and have structures referred to as sporangia (sporangium). In various other species, the sporangia are created on details leaves the the plant. Every sporangium produces countless minute spores (lycopodium powder), which will certainly germinate to form a small, slim leafy stage of the plant’s life cycle recognized as the gametophyte (the phase that to produce gametes, eggs, and also sperm). In many varieties of clubmosses, the gametophyte stage creates underground, and also symbiotic fungi administer the nutrition because that this stage of the plant, which may persist for up to 7 years in a dormant type and take approximately 15 years to finish the sex-related reproductive stage. In other species, the gametophyte stage might be photosynthetic and develop above ground. This stage of the plant life cycle has actually both structures—antheridia, developing flagellated sperm; and also archegonia, developing eggs. The sperm swim with a film of water come fertilize the eggs. Fertilized eggs develop into multicell embryos that kind the sporophyte (spore-producing stage of plant)—the phase of the plant the we commonly see. Many varieties of clubmosses also reproduce asexually by underground horizontal tribe (rhizomes or runners) or by special structures called gemmae (gemma) that are teams of cells on the tips of the stems that detach and type new plants.

Human uses of society mosses are numerous for medicinal, dyeing, pyrotechnic, and also decorative purposes. Society moss spores and teas from tree leaves have been provided since ancient times in both American Indian and also European cultures. Medicinal uses included treating urinary street problems, diarrhea and other digestive tract problems, relieving headaches and skin ailments, and also inducing labor in pregnancy. In part cultures, the spores have been purported to it is in an aphrodisiac. The spores repel water and also have been provided as a powder on skin rashes and also even on infant bottoms, and also to treat wounds. Clubmoss spores when were supplied by pharmacists in the coating of pills. In both the Americas and Europe, clubmoss tree were provided in dyeing fabrics and other items. The tree and/or spores have the right to be used straight or as a mordant (substance come lock in various other dyes) in the dyeing process. Spores are also really flammable as result of their high oil content. They were used in Indian cultures for ceremonial purposes, when medicine men tossed the spores right into a fire for a speed of light. The spores ignite with a bright flash of light and were offered in speed photography, in stage productions, in fireworks (up till the 1950s), and in chemistry labs. In ~ one time, club moss plants frequently were offered for Christmas decorations. Species in which individual tree are associated by rhizomes or runners to be ripped native the ground and also used together decorative ropes that greenery. Because clubmosses are slow growing plants, countless groups (including in the 1990s waged projects to discourage this practice.

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As friend walk in our neighborhood woods during the winter months, store an eye the end for this fascinating and attractive group of plants. If you recognize someone that still offers clubmoss ropes because that Christmas decorations, you re welcome remind castle of the delicate and fascinating life cycle and also slow expansion of these important plants the the woodland floor.

Additional Resources

General info on life cycle and uses the clubmosses:

Information on dyeing:

Life cycles: