The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 11, 2002


Biodiversity Corner: Tree Clubmoss

Name: Tree Clubmoss or Lycopodium obscurum

When and where seen: All year round, throughout Carlisle, in the woods at the Towle land, along the track from School Street to Estabrook Woods, at Great Brook State Park.

Distinguishing characteristics: To the casual observer, to Mr. Magoo and others similarly challenged, this plant looks like a small pine tree. It is an evergreen and has dark green pointed leaves arranged in spirals around the stem. It grows up to 12 inches tall and can have several stemless, vertical, golden, spore-bearing cones up to one and a half inches long.

Name confusion: Clubmosses are not actually mosses. They are vascular plants. They are in the same division as ferns since they have no flowers or seeds.

Other species: There are just 11 species listed in the genus Lycopodium for the northeast and central regions of North America. I have found two more of them in the Towle woods. The Tree Clubmoss can be fairly easily distinguished from them by the arrangement of the leaves. The leaves of L. complanatum, the Running Pine, hug the stem very closely giving it a straplike appearance. The leaves of L. clavatum, the Staghorn Clubmoss, are very dense and have fine hairlike tips.

Reference: Boughton Cobb, A Field Guide to Ferns

Submissions for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged and welcomed from all interested observers of nature. Think of it as your space to say a word or two on behalf of one of your favorite species. Just follow the format of today's column (or not) and send to Kay Fairweather at 392 School St, Carlisle MA 01742 or to Don't hold back due to lack of photos or drawings.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito