Club Moss - (Lycopodium spp)


Common Name: Club Moss
Scientific Name: Lycopodium spp
Family: Clubmoss (Lycopodiaceae)
Other Common Names: Ground Pine, Princesses Pine, Club Pine, Lycopodium, ground cedar, running pine, running moss, snakemoss
Flower Color: Green
Habitat: Moist, shaded woodlands
General Bloom Dates: June - September

General Characteristics:
Club Mosses have horizontal branching stems, both underground and above. These stems will send up shoots that will hold the flowering portion of the plant. The shoots can range from 1/2 inch high to over one foot. These plants produce spores in a cone like structure at the end of the stem. The spores are shed and they germinate on good soil. Once the spores germinate, they develop into a "thallus" which then produce male and female egg cells. These cells then reproduce to form the new plant. This process can be exceedingly slow, taking up to twenty years to complete. Club Mosses more commonly will send out the underground runner as a way to propagate.
Plant Lore:
This is one of the oldest living plants still around on Earth. Fossil records show evidence of these plants alive on Earth over 200 million years ago. Those plants are of a species that is now extinct, and once reached heights over 100 feet. Possibly the food of the now extinct herbaceous dinosaurs.
The spores from the Club Moss plant were once collected and used to stop nosebleeds and other hemorrhaging. The spores also were used to absorb fluids on damaged tissues. These spores can be harvested in large quantities by picking and drying the stems. (Doing this does not necessarily kill the entire plant, as the underground runner will send up shoots in the future if it is left intact.)
The spores have also been used in pyrotechnics and photography. The spores are extremely flammable and will explode in a bright flash when ignited. This was common for the old time photographers when they wanted to illuminate their subject, they would ignite these spores for the momentary flash. You may have seen this done in the old time movies where the photographer ignites the flash pan to take a picture, this most likely was the spores of the Club Moss. Pyrotechnic experts would use these spores to create dramatic flashes during the performances of stage plays and other theatrical performances.
The Chinese used to use these spores to dust pills to keep them from sticking together. They would also use them as a lubricant for suppositories. The Native Americans used this plant to create a tea that would act as an analgesic to relieve pain after childbirth. The roots were also used as a mordant to help in the fixing of natural dyes so the color would remain in the fabric.

Modern Uses of this Plant:
The plant itself was once used extensively as a Christmas green. People would harvest them to make seasonal wreaths. Since the germination of the plant takes upwards of twenty years, this practice should be discouraged on a wide scale. It is also illegal to do this in many states, as this plant has received protected status.
The spores of the Club Mosses are used in modern society in quite a different way. At a health food store you may be able to find the spores sold as "vegetable sulphur" which is dusted on diaper rashes, bed sores and other skin eruptions. This works because spores contain a waxy substance that repels water. It is reported that you can dust your hand with the spores and completely submerge your hand in water. Upon removing your hand from the water it will be completely dry.
The most common use of these plants is one we often take for granted. When the earlier club mosses inhabited the earth in massive forests, they were buried, compressed and carbonized to make the coal we now use for electrical generation and occasionally heating. Without ancient club mosses we possibly would not have the cheap resources to produce the electrical energy we use today.