Diphasiastrum complanatum

Ground Cedar

Ground Cedar, Photo © 1998 by Earl J.S. Rook
Ground Cedar
Photo © 1998 by Earl J.S. Rook

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Diphasiastrum, from the generic name Diphasium, and astrum, "inferiority or partial resemblance", hence, "false Diphasium"
  • complanatum, from the Latin, "flattened"
  • Ground Cedar, from the resemblance of its scale-like leaves to those of the Cedars
  • Other common names include: Creeping Jenny, Ground Pine, Running Pine, Running Cedar, Christmas Green, Trailing Evergreen, Issler's Clubmoss (UK), Plattlummer, Jämna (Swe), Skogjamne (Nor), Flad Ulvefod (Dan), Keltalieko (Fin), Gewöhnlicher Flachbärlapp (Ger)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Lycopodiophyta, the Clubmosses
      • Class Lycopodiopsida, the Clubmosses
        • Order Lycopodiales, the Clubmosses
          • Family Lycopodiaceae, the Clubmosses
            • Genus Diphasiastrum, the Ground Cedars
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 17025
  • Also known as Lycopodium complanatum, Diphasium anceps, Diphasium complanatum, Diphasium complanatum ssp. montellii, Diphasium wallrothii, Lycopodium anceps, Lycopodium complanatum ssp. anceps, Lycopodium complanatum var. canadense


  • A creeping, evergreen, rhizomatous clubmoss; growing in tangled masses with occasional erect branches topped with slim cones. Height to 10"
  • Vertical stems multi-branched
    • branchlets blade-like and flat in cross section
    • annual growth constrictions common
  • Horizontal stems at or just below surface of ground.
  • Cones cylindrical, 2½", in upright candelabra-like clusters of 1-4.


  • Identifiable as a Ground Cedar (Diphasiastrum species) by its scale-like leaves.
  • Distinguished from Blue Ground Cedar (Diphasiastrum tristachyum) by its blade-like ultimate branchlets, flat in cross section. The Blue Ground Cedar has cord-like ultimate branchlets which are square in cross section.
  • Distinguished from Fan Clubmoss (Diphasiastrum digitatum) by its very irregular and tangled branching. The branches of Fan Clubmoss form regular fans.
  • Field Marks
    • branches irregular and tangled in form
    • branchlets blade-like with flat cross section
    • medium green, not blue green in color
    • shallow rhizome


  • Circumboreal, Alaska to Newfoundland, south to Washington, Montana, and Pennsylvania.


  • Moist shaded coniferous woods, roadsides, thickets, rocky places






  • Clonal, reproducing primarily by sprouting from rhizomes. It also produces spores and a subterranean, mycorrhizal gametophyte.


  • Very difficult.


  • Clubmosses can make attractive ground covers, but they do not transplant well



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Last Updated on 26 February, 2004