The fir mosses were until extremely recently (Moran 2004) believed to be fern allies. Sophisticated research has changed this classification. (See comments under Selaginella.) However, they are indeed without flowers and seeds, and while most are tropical, several form evergreen carpets of miniature, mosslike, upright spikes on forest floors or rocky ledges and are included here for enjoyment and education. They are frequently lumped together with Lycopodium, and enjoy similar shady and generally acidic habitats. Plants differ from most other lycophytes in lacking horizontal stems and in having branchlets with attached gemmae (leafy propagules that detach and grow into new plants). Curiously, the roots originate at the tips of the shoots and burrow through the stem, eventually emerging at the base (rather like some of the tree ferns).
A colony of Huperzia lucidula successfully established in the decomposing leafy litter in the Hudgens garden brings visions of spring walks in the woodlands.
Unlike ferns, huperzias bear spores in the leaf axils but these are not a practical option for propagation. (Lycopodiums carry their spores in cones.) They can be divided but with a dependence on associated fungi are not usually long-lived in or recommended for garden settings (unless they are already happily established on the property). In addition to the species, there are many hybrids. The genus name honors the German fern horticulturist, Johann Huperz.
Huperzia appalachiana (from Appalachia) is a compact species that has V4-in. (6-mm) smooth, narrowly triangular leaves on upright 2V2- to 4-in. (6- to 10-cm) shoots. They are without annual growth constrictions (a narrowed, pinched ring of foliage). Gemmae-bearing, mature upper leaves are markedly smaller than the lower juveniles. Unlike most fir mosses, H. appalachiana is not noticeably shiny and grows in
Pendulous Huperzia varia foliage hangs from the forest overstory along a trail on Mount Cook on New Zealand's South Island.
alpine zones on exposed cliffs and among acidic rocks rather than in shady woodlands. The native range extends from Zones 3 to 6 along the Atlantic coast from eastern Canada south to Tennessee and Virginia and inland to Michigan and Minnesota with disjunct populations in Greenland.
Huperzia lucidula (shining), synonym Lycopodium lucidu-lum, is a glistening green creeper that roots from underground rhizomes in Zones 2 to 6. The 3/s-in. (9-mm) leaves are toothed and on 6-in. (15-cm) shoots that have winter growth constrictions. With age the shoots become brown and decumbent. Gemmae are tucked in the ultimate whorl of the current year's leaves. This species grows in rich soil in damp coniferous and hardwood forests from upper midwestern North America to the East Coast.
Huperzia selago (flashing), synonym Lycopodium selago, forms glowing dark green, miniature forests of evergreen, upright 4- to 6-in. (10- to 15-cm) stalks with a hint of annual constriction rings. The smooth to slightly toothy Vs-in. (3mm) leaves are lanceolate. Gemmae are produced annually in the terminal whorl of foliage. Once considered to be widespread, albeit variable, the species has been divided into a number of closely associated relatives. What for years in the Pacific Northwest has been called H. selago (or more precisely Lycopodium selago) is now H. haleakalae based on the distribution of gemmae throughout the mature portions of the foliage rather than just the terminal whorl. As a group, they are circumboreal Zone 2 natives of damp woodlands or sometimes bogs and less frequently on shaded rocky strata.
Huperzia varia (varied), the hanging clubmoss, synonym Lycopodium varium, is from New Zealand and Australia. As the common name implies, this is a variable species that usually perches as an epiphyte and hangs its long tassels of up to 6 ft. (1.8 m) from the crowns of trees in forested areas. It may grow terrestrially but is more often found as an epiphytic treat along the many hiking tracks that are popular with visitors. Shorter forms are found on tree fern trunks. It is a basket candidate in Zones 4 to 8.
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