Alpine Clubmoss BETTER
It has a circumpolar distribution across much of the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere: much of Canada, the northwestern United States, northern and central Europe, Russia, China and Japan. It is an indicator of alpine tundra and boreal climates. It is found in mountains and moors often with Calluna and grasses.
Small clubmoss (15 cm) of dry northern coniferous forests; resembling a dwarf pine or juniper, with tiny scale-like overlapping leaves, underside leaves trowel-shaped, contracted at the base with flared and rolled blades; strobili not stalked, borne on terminal shoots.
Aids to Identification: Alaskan clubmoss is very similar in appearance to the hybrid Diphasiastrum x sabinifolium but they can be distinguished by the following features: Alpine clubmoss has leaves of uniform length arranged in five ranks, and the sterile branchlets are not flattened. Identification can be further complicated by the fact that the growth form varies widely with the habitat among clubmoss species. Plants growing in the sun are more compact, shorter, more upright, while those in woodlands are taller and more spreading.
Clubmoss, Lycopodium clavatum, and alpine clubmoss, Lycopodium alpinum. Handcoloured woodblock engraving of a botanical illustration from Adam Lonicers Krauterbuch, or Herbal, Frankfurt, 1557... Read more
Clubmoss, Lycopodium clavatum, and alpine clubmoss, Lycopodium alpinum. Handcoloured woodblock engraving of a botanical illustration from Adam Lonicers Krauterbuch, or Herbal, Frankfurt, 1557. This from a 17th century pirate edition or atlas of illustrations only, with captions in Latin, Greek, French, Italian, German, and in English manuscript. Date
Fir clubmoss has a long history of medicinal and magical use. In medieval times, the plants were woven into wreaths and armbands. When worn, these adornments were thought to give the wearer the ability to understand the language of birds and beasts. The spores from the clubmosses were used to create bright, but brief, flashes of light in Victorian theater, allowing magicians and actors to disappear.
Clubmosses are members of the Lycopodiaceae family, and they are among the most ancient plants still in existence today. Even older than ferns, they reproduce by means of spores found at the base of the leaves where they attach to the stems. Fir clubmoss (Huperzia appalachiana) is one of a group of closely related and nearly indistinguishable clubmosses.
Fir clubmoss forms clumps of upright stems that look like tiny conifers. At the tip of the stem, you may find small plantlets with six leaves. These little plants look right at home in a rock garden. Many of the club mosses look similar, if not identical. You may have to rely on the differences in their preferred environment to differentiate between the species.
If you find them in cold, harsh, alpine environments, such as cliff sides and rocky outcrops, you probably have a fir clubmoss. When you find them in more protected environments, such as ditches and stream sides, they are more likely a similar species, such as H. selago. In North America, fir clubmoss is restricted to the higher elevations in the far northeast.
Although it was once used to treat a variety of ailments, fir clubmoss is dangerous if taken internally. Chewing three of the needlelike leaves induces a hypnotic state, while eight can cause unconsciousness. The symptoms of fir clubmoss poisoning include nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, and slurred speech. Anyone suffering from fir clubmoss poisoning needs immediate medical treatment.
Common interrupted-clubmoss is so called because each year's growth is noted by an interruption or constriction on the stem. It is also sometimes called bristly clubmoss because it is prickly to the touch.
Firmosses are recognized by their evergreen upright shoots, dichotomous branching and the presence of spores in the leaf axils and gemmae (small 6-leaved plantlets) in the apical portion of the plant. Huperzia appalachiana is very similar to H. selago (ranked S1 in Maine) and the two are very difficult to tell apart. H. appalachiana occurs in exposed, harsh environments in alpine settings, whereas H. selago occurs in boreal, hydric environments including ditches, pondshores and other moist areas, but not in alpine environments. H. appalachiana has dimorphic leaves (trophophylls): Leaves towards the base of the plant are longer and spreading more so than the leaves in the apical portion of the plant. H. selago has monomorphic leaves. Huperzia appalachiana is restricted to Maine's highest mountains and a few coastal islands. Hybridization with H. selago is common and the hybrid is frequently encountered above treeline.
4.3. PLANT SPECIES AND COMMUNITIES Table 1. Rare and endemic plant speciesRed font = red-listed taxon; Blue font = blue-listed taxon; yellow fill = unlisted taxon; grey fill = taxon now considered synonymous with other taxon. Compiled for Ministry of Forests (J. Pojar) by Paula Bartemucci, Smithers. Scientific Name Common Name Rare on QCI Endem ic? Unusual Disjunction Abronia latifolia yellow sand-verbena 4 N limit sandy beaches Range Extension Habitat Reference Aconitum delphiniifolium mountain monkshood 4 subalpine meadows Calder & Taylor 1968; Roemer & Ogilvie 1983 Agrostis pallens dune bentgrass 4 N limit beaches Ambrosia chamissonis silver burweed N limit sandy beaches Amsinckia spectabilis seaside fiddleneck 4 N limit (?) sandy beaches Anemone multifida cut-leaved anemone 4 QCI - Interior BC W limit; 1 QCI record limestone bluffs, Limestone I. Anemone narcissiflora narcissus anemone QCI - Brooks Pen. W limit rocky high elevations Anemone parviflora small-flowered anemone 4 QCI-Interior BC W limit limestone outcrops Calder & Taylor 1968; Roemer & Ogilvie 1983 Angelica genuflexa kneeling angelica 4 beaches, roadsides, clearings Lomer & Douglas 1999 Aphanes occidentalis western parsley-piert 4 W limit dry coastal bluffs Artemisia norvegica ssp. Saxatilis mountain sagewort 4 W limit rocky slopes, high elevations Astragalus robbinsii Robbins' milk-vetch 4 QCI - Interior BC W limit limestone Roemer & Ogilvie 1983 Atriplex alaskensis Alaskan orache 4 S limit; 1 QCI record seashores Douglas and others 1998; extirpated?; doubtful taxon? Boschniakia hookeri Vancouver groundcone 4 N limit open hemlock-redcedar-salal forest Lomer & Douglas 1999 Bromus vulgaris Columbia brome 4 N limit gravelly roadside Lomer & Douglas 1999 Calamagrostis purpurascens ssp. tasuensis (C. sesquiflora) Tasu purple reedgrass N coastal BC QCI - Brooks Pen. N limit? limestone; high elevations now submerged in C. sesquiflora (Douglas and others 2001) Callitriche hermaphroditica northern water-starwort 4 aquatic Lomer & Douglas 1999 Callitriche heterophylla ssp. heterophylla two-edged water-starwort 4 aquatic Douglas and others 1998 Callitriche palustris spring water-starwort 4 aquatic Lomer & Douglas 1999 Campanula lasiocarpa mountain harebell 4 alpine ridges Cardamine angulata angled bitter-cress moist forest Carex cusickii Cusick's sedge 4 W limit peatlands Carex glareosa var. amphigena lesser saltmarsh sedge 4 S limit tidal marshes 4.3-1 041b061a72