Lycopodium clavatum

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Lycopodium clavatum
Lycopodium clavatum 151207.jpg

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Lycopodiophyta
Class: Lycopodiopsida
Order: Lycopodiales
Family: Lycopodiaceae
Genus: Lycopodium
Species: L. clavatum
Binomial name
Lycopodium clavatum

Lycopodium clavatum (wolf's-foot clubmoss, stag's-horn clubmoss, or ground pine[1]) is the most widespread species in the genus Lycopodium of the clubmoss family Lycopodiaceae.

It is a spore-bearing vascular plant, growing mainly prostrate along the ground with stems up to 1 m long; the stems are much branched, and densely clothed with small, spirally arranged leaves. The leaves are 3–5 mm long and 0.7–1 mm broad, tapered to a fine hair-like white point. The branches bearing spore cones turn erect, reaching 5–15 cm above ground, and have fewer leaves than the horizontal branches. The spore cones are yellow-green, 2–3 cm long, and 5 mm broad. The horizontal stems produce roots at frequent intervals along their length, allowing the stem to grow indefinitely along the ground. The stems superficially resemble small seedlings of coniferous trees, though it is not related to these.

Close-up of sporophylls

It has a subcosmopolitan distribution, with distinct subspecies and varieties in different parts of its range:

Although globally widespread, like many clubmosses, it is confined to undisturbed sites, disappearing from farmed areas and sites with regular burning. As a result, it is endangered in many areas. In the UK it is one of 101 species named as a high priority for conservation by the wild plant charity Plantlife.[2]

Other common names

Common names for this species include common clubmoss, stag's-horn clubmoss, wolf-paw clubmoss, foxtail clubmoss, running clubmoss, running ground-pine, running pine,[1] running moss, princess pine, and others.


The spores of this moss, "lycopodium powder", are explosive if present in the air in high enough densities. They were used as flash powder in early photography and magic acts.

Active constituents

Bioactive, secondary metabolites in clubmosses include triterpenoids with acetylcholinesterase inhibitor activity isolated from this species.[3]


  1. ^ a b Bailey, L.H.; Bailey, E.Z.; the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. 1976. Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. Macmillan, New York.
  2. ^ Plantlife website
  3. ^ Rollinger JM, Ewelt J, Seger C, Sturm S, Ellmerer EP, Stuppner H (2005). Planta Med;71(11):1040-3. PMID 16320206

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