Diphasiastrum digitatum – Fan clubmoss

Winter comes early to Nantahala, and it is isn’t unusual for the first dusting of snow to coincide with the October “leaf season”

snow 013

Or, for a blanket of snow several inches deep to cover the hyacinths in the garden in April.

hyacynth covered in snow

The trees stand tall and as bare as the ground below it, letting in the light.

January 4, 08_1

The sun on the mountains shines bright  through the trees which stand erect and silent, as if waiting for spring ephemerals to poke through the snow,

Those sunny winter days are  made to take to the trails which criss-cross the area or simply wander down a deer path in the woods and enjoy noticing ferns and mosses.

diphasiastrum digitatum study_0 - Copy

Diphasiastrum digitatum (previously known as Lycopodium digitatum)  lies close to the ground, about 3-6 inches high,  usually buried in leaves, and is common in Nantahala bordering paths along the Appalachian and Bartram trails.

It is, I think, a very cute plant.  Not a flowering plant, but the type of plant that when you see it, you want to blurt out “Hey, look at that!” It is simply unusual.  It goes by several names – Southern ground cedar, crowfoot, and bears  paws – all names that compare it with other things, because the sight of it does prick the imagination.

There is a patch of Diaphasiastrum digitatum growing down the road from me and one winter day I tried to see if I could carefully take a plant home with me and discovered that it was most definitely not a good idea.

It is like the Spiritual “Dem Bones” with the toe bone connected to the foot bone and the foot bone connected to the leg bone and so forth.  All those lovely curly plants are connected and they most definitely do not want to be transplanted.  So, they are best enjoyed on walks and trail hikes. I felt a little defeated when I decided to give up on the idea of bringing the clubmoss into the garden so I consulted some of my plant books and found that, indeed, the consensus of the experts is that they most definitely do not transplant.

Besides producing more plants by spreading underground, they, like ferns, reproduce by spores . The spore producing structures are also very, very interesting looking, but they are in evidence in summer and fall and with all the other vegetation calling attention they are easy to miss. They are pale yellow in color and look very much in size and shape like a dinner fork. A botanist would say that these structures  are penduncles ( stems) with strobili (spore bearing structures). The shaft of the “fork” being the penducle and the” tines of the fork”, the strobili ( which is plural of strobilus).

Diphasiastrum digitatun_0

Diphasiastrum digitatun_1

Links: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/grasses/plants/fan_clubmoss.htm



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