A not so typical moss
A quiet walk afield can be tremendously therapeutic. It really doesn’t matter whether you are in the woods, on the beach, on the prairie, or in the desert; the solitude combined with the quiet and an openness to the world around you can change your whole outlook on life (even if for a few precious minutes at a time). It is during these times, once you’ve cleared the clutter of your mind for a while, you can enjoy the world as it is, in minute detail.
Years ago I had such an episode near my childhood home in West Virginia. I don’t remember what the teenager issue of the day may have been, but to this day I remember the particular detail that resonated in my mind. As I walked down a gravel road on a cold day after a wet snow, I was struck by a patch of deep green crowsfoot club moss standing out against the crusty snow on the high-side bank under an open stand of Virginia pine. Stunning.
Who would have imagined the effect that a lowly groundcover could have? It was the liveliest thing in the woods that day…even the birds were hunkered down. I understood immediately why my parents’ generation, and those before, coveted these stands for Christmas greenery; and maybe why these stands should be left alone. This plant quickly became one of my favorites.
Lycopodium digitatum is the botanical name given to crowsfoot club moss, also known as fan club moss and ground cedar. Club mosses are considered fern “allies” meaning that they are botanically similar, though very much distinct. Like ferns club mosses are ancient, arising in the era before flowers and seeds had evolved. They reproduce by producing spores, or more commonly, through vegetative reproduction. Often, club mosses colonize patches of ground via underground stems similar to vines, although most club mosses stay on the ground.
Crowsfoot club moss is an evergreen perennial native to the eastern half of North America. Its range is in the higher Appalachian mountains northward, and its range ends in northern Georgia and Alabama. It has also been found from the east and south shores of Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico; and from the Atlantic coast to the states on the west bank of the Mississippi River. It is found in natural areas that are shaded, often sloped and moist (humid but no wet soil).
An unsual ground cover
It has been a plan of mine for the past few years to start a patch of crowsfoot in a shaded area at the back of my yard. We back up to a wood lot that has grown up in Chinese privet, forsythia, honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, mondo grass and poison ivy…a perfect spot, after a little preparation. I envision a woodland garden with crowsfoot and wintergreen along the pathway, a few ferns and maybe some mountain laurel. The challenge has been finding a nursery that sells crowsfoot club moss. My alternative solution is to take cuttings from a friends naturally grown patch and propogate them. Along with all of the other plans, we’ll see how it all pans out.
What inspires your gardening habit?