Lycopodium obscurum

Ground Pine

Ground Pine


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


  • Lycopodium, from the Greek, lukos (lukos) "wolf", and podos (podos) "foot"; "wolf's foot", a reference to the resemblance of the branch tips to a wolf's paw.
  • obscurum, from the Latin, "dark, shady, obscured"
  • Ground Pine, from resemblance of vertical stem to miniature pine tree.
  • Other common names include Rare Clubmoss, Tree Clubmoss, Round Branched Clubmoss


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Lycopodiophyta, the Club Mosses
      • Class Lycopodiopsida, the Club Mosses
        • Order Lycopodiales, the Club Mosses
          • Family Lycopodiaceae, the Club Mosses
            • Genus Lycopodium, the Club Mosses
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 17032


  • An evergreen, rhizomatous clubmoss with the appearance of tiny, thickly branched pine tree with oversized cones. Height to 12"
  • Horizontal Stem creeping and branching well below ground.
  • Vertical Stem grows as individual little trees.
    • Branches 1"-8"
    • Leaves ¼" long and shiny green
  • Cones cylindrical, yellow, 1½", on tips of upper branches; a dozen or more on a single branch.


  • Distinguished from running clubmosses by its individual, bushy form and deeply buried horizontal stem.
  • Distinguished from other tree like clubmosses by round branches; pine like rather than flattened and cedar like.
  • Field Marks


  • Circumpolar and transcontinental in boreal North America, south to Washington, Indiana, and North Carolina.


  • Cool, boreal forests. Considered an indicator of cool temperature climates, fresh and very moist soils, nitrogen-poor soils, and compacted forest floors.
  • Damp, open woods, forest bog edges
  • Moist forest floors, often with maple-basswood or mixed pine-hardwoods.
  • Grows at cool temperatures, will tolerate low nutrients, and can withstand a wide range of light conditions.
  • Well-drained organic soils, often on sandy loams
  • Considered a mid-seral species, it occurs in forest stands 10 to 30 years old and will decline in very old stands. In general, if temperatures become warmer and the forest becomes drier, this species would be expected to decrease.






  • Primarily vegetatively by sprouting from rhizomes. It also produces spores and a subterranean, mycorrhizal gametophyte. The main colonization period is June through September, but it tends to decrease toward the drier part of the season. Spores are produced in August.


  • Very difficult; division may be the most successful method


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



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Last Updated on 26 February, 2004