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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - May 21, 2012

From: Quinwood, WV
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Mystery forest plant in WV
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

In the mountains of southern WV I have several acres of shady, moist land. It has never been developed and is COVERED with a low growing fern?ground cover?whatever. It creeps along on very shallow roots. It is about 3" tall, sometimes has a small yellow shoot which I think is its "flower". It turns yellow when it goes into the winter season, but comes back to lush, thick continuous green cover. I have had no luck at transplanting. The foliage makes me think of the needles of hemlock or another native evergreen. HELP! I have looked EVERYWHERE!

ANSWER:

Although it is impossible to identify your plant without seeing it, we can make an educated guess and hopefully point you in the right direction.

From your description, we suspect that your plant is probably a Lycopodium sp. (commonly known as club moss or ground pine and ground cedar) and most likely Lycopodium digitatum (Fan clubmoss)  It forms large colonies on hardwood forest floors and is very common throughout Appalachia. If you read the Wikipedia article about  Lycopodium  it will tell you more about the plant species.  L. dendroideum and L hickeyi are also candidates that are native to West Virginia.

 

From the Image Gallery


Fan clubmoss
Lycopodium digitatum

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