Common Fern and Fern-Ally Species of the Northwest Forest






Terminology | Pictorial

Lycopodium annotinum
Stiff Clubmoss
Lycopodiaceae (Clubmoss Family)

Stiff Clubmoss Description

General - perennial with horizontal, leafy, rooting stems creeping on or near ground surface, up to 1 m long; erect stems simple to twice forked, 5 - 30 cm tall, bottlebrush-like, with numerous bristly leaves.

Leaves - many, needle-like, 3 - 10 mm long, usually spreading, firm, sharp-pointed, in 8 vertical rows, appear whorled.

Spore Clusters - in stalkless, single, 12 - 35 mm long cones; spore clusters in axils of yellowish to greenish, egg-shaped, slender-pointed bracts, tightly clustered in cone.


Moist forest, thickets, and heathland; widespread across Northwestern Ontario's boreal forest, north past treeline to Arctic coast; circumpolar.


Running club-moss (L. clavatum) is found in dry, mossy sites across the boreal forest and around the world. It is similar to stiff club-moss, but running club-moss has a slender hair at the tip of each leaf , and its spore-bearing cones are on long stalks. The Woods Cree used club- mosses to separate raw fish eggs from the membranous sacs in which they are produced. This was done by wriggling the egg mass and a bunch of stiff club moss together with the hands. The separated eggs were used to make fish-egg bread. Club-moss spores have been used as a dusting powder in surgery, as baby powder and to treat various skin problems, including eczema and chaffed skin. The spores repeal water so strongly that a hand dusted with them can be dipped into water without becoming wet. However, their use as an anti-absorbent is limited as they are know to irritate mucous membranes. The Carrier used to put club-moss spores to divine the future of the sick people. The spores were dropped into a container of water and if they moved towards the sun, the patient would survive. Club-moss spores are very rich in oil, and they are highly flammable. At one time they were used by photographers and theatre performers as flash powder, giving the effect of lightning on the stage. Because they ignite explosively, club-moss spores were called 'witch's flour'.

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