December is not the best time for botanical discoveries, since most of the native flora has shut down in preparation for winter. Despite this, I have just added Shining Clubmoss, Lycopodium lucidulum, as number 540 on my Blue Jay Barrens plant list. Though it only grows a few inches tall, Shining Clubmoss is an evergreen plant that becomes quite visible when most everything else is brown.
The discovery was made while I was busy with my cedar maintenance project. I was working my way along the north edge of a cedar thicket bordering one of the prairies and I noticed some green foliage that was much brighter than the typical mosses.
In all, there were about 60 small clumps of the Lycopodium growing in a slightly depressed area about 25 feet in diameter.
Vertical growth arises from a low growing horizontal stem. The stem often becomes buried by debris and develops roots. The rapidly growing stems can create a large collection of plants.
The narrow leaves are typically toothed from the midpoint to the tip.
In addition to spreading by way of horizontal runners, Shining Clubmoss produces bulblets which are tiny plants that fall to the ground and begin to grow. Also, like all other Clubmosses, the plants reproduce by way of spores. In the photo, bulblets are the growths on the upper right portion of the stem. The yellow spore cases, some of which have opened to resemble empty clam shells, are located lower down in the photo at the base of slightly smaller leaves known as sporophylls. With such a variety of reproductive strategies, it’s odd that these plants aren’t more common.
It’s always fun to add another plant to the Blue Jay Barrens list. I’ll keep watching to see if the Shining Clubmoss turns up at other locations on the property.