Selaginella bigelovii (after physician-botanist John Milton Bigelow, 1804-1878), the bushy spikemoss, straddles the California-Mexico border where it clings to rocks on assorted substrates. Slender green fingers extend horizontally from tawny 3- to 4-in. (7.5- to 10-cm) stems. It is reputed to be hardy in Zones 8 to 10.
Selaginella densa (crowded) is an aptly named velvety green, furry creeper native from canada down through the backbone of the Rocky Mountains to higher elevations in Arizona. The monomorphic leaves are tan on the undersides and curl to the same color in drought. This spikemoss grows on rocks and in meadows and can be introduced in exposed, winter-dry or snow-covered sites in Zones 6 to 9. Give it lean soil and good drainage.
Selaginella erythropus (red foot) is a tropical species from central and south America that is a spectacular addition to conservatories or deserving of a terrarium of its own. Creeping, small, dark green foliar plumes have a brilliant ruby-red undercoat. The plant thrives in humidity and low light. It has outdoor potential in humid surroundings in Zones 10 and 11, possibly Zone 9.
Selaginella helvetica (from Switzerland) is cultivated in European and British gardens where it forms a low mat of evergreen sterile leaves that support upright, deciduous fertile stalks. In winter cold the sterile mats turn reddish. The species is native to Europe extending across the Caucasus, Russia, and Siberia to Japan and China. Cultivate this in moist acid shade in Zones 5 to 9.
Selaginella martensii (after Marten) is a tender species from Mexico and Central America with an escape in New Zealand. Creeping branches form a two-toned bramble of foliage, dark green above and pale green beneath. This is a good choice for terrariums or humidity-rich Zones 9 and 10. Forma albovariegata has elegant white variegation.
Creamy white tones blend into green on Selaginella martensii forma albovariegata in the collection at Longwood Gardens.
Selaginella nipponica (from Japan) with its dimorphic structure is closely related to S. helvetica. Both have prostrate, evergreen sterile stems and deciduous, vertical fertile stalks. Likewise the sterile material may turn red in winter while the fertile branches wither. By contrast, however, it likes sunny slopes and rocky sites rather than a shady bedding. It is native to Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Thailand and is an attractive candidate for landscapes in Zones 6 to 8.
Selaginellapallescens (becoming pale) has a loosely structured triangular outline of green foliage edged with hints of white. It is an interesting variation for conservatory culture as well as an attractive conversation piece in Zones 9 and 10 and elsewhere in terrariums.
Selaginella rupestris (of rocky places), the rock spikemoss, is a tough monomorphic species that spreads on an all-terrain radius from the U.S. Midwest and Canada down to Georgia with an outpost in Greenland. It is extremely variable but can be introduced and encouraged in rock garden crags and among fast-draining rubble in troughs from Zones 3 to 8.
Selaginella sanguinolenta (blood red) is native to Siberia and Siberian-like climates in China. While the species has not been in commerce in the United States, var. compressa has been in the trade for many years. It is an extremely attractive option for rock gardeners, but gives no indication of the red
Selaginella wallichii in shade, at the base of Philodendron 'Red Emerald'. Photo by George Schenk.
designation of the name. The material in commerce is a handsome mass of wiry tangled thread like foliage with densely compact scaly leaves. The plant should adjust with ease in Zones 4 or 5 to 9. With its minute stature, it belongs in a container with coarse soil rather than in the landscape.
Selaginella siberica (from Siberia) pushes the extremes for cold hardiness with populations in Alaska and across the Straits into Siberia and down the Pacific to Japan. It is from dry alpine areas and grassy tundra where it grows as an exposed mat. Closely related to S. rupestris, it differs primarily in having an abundance of marginal hairs (cilia). German specialists are growing it in their Zone 6 and 7 gardens and it should be welcome elsewhere as well.
Selaginella stauntoniana (after either Sir George L. Staunton, 1737-1801, the first westerner to note orange flavor in tea while on assignment in China [leading to what we know today as Earl Gray tea], or his son Sir George T. Staunton likewise a botanist) is an upright Asian species with plumose triangular 6- to 8-in. (15- to 20-cm) foliage atop naked chestnut-colored stems. It is winter hardy in Zones 7 and 8 but slow to venture outward with its slender rhizomes. Plant it in light shade and compost.
Selaginella tamariscina (Tamarix-like) has twisted stems with tightly bunched leaves forming a spiral of 2- to 3-in. (5-
Selaginella wallichii in morning sun (with afternoon shade) responds to the direct ultraviolet by compacting itself and turning bronzy. Here it forms a leafy cover on the side of a fern basket attached to a stone wall. Photo by George Schenk.
to 7.5-cm) high evergreen foliage. It is incredibly slow growing and clearly should be featured in a container situation in Zones (6) 7 to 9. In Japan the species and its many varieties are prized as bonsai specimens. It is drought tolerant and will curl and rehydrate with the appropriate weather variations.
Selaginella wallichii (after Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich, 1786-1854) is an airily open-textured ground cover within tropical forests and wooded home lots (having arrived there as spores) in New Guinea, the Philippines, Malaysia, and India. This species romps through leaf mold on long slim stems and sends up, to a foot (30 cm) or more in height, dark green glossy foliage, ample and frondlike. The many divisions of the leaves terminate in slender cones an inch long (2.5 cm) and, as a group, rather reptilian, suggesting the claws of a monitor lizard. Easy to transplant, S. wallichii makes an effective ferny contrast for tropicals with big, broad leaves. It takes on a strikingly different habit in a sunny location, compacting its growth and turning bronze-colored. (Description by George Schenk.)
Selaginella watsonii (after William Watson, 1858-1925, curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) is a monomorphic evergreen from the Rocky Mountains where it forms mats in exposed rocky cliffs and crags to shady meadows and wetlands. In cultivation give it light shade as an understory in a container from Zone 6 to 9.
Selaginella willdenovii (after Karl Willdenow, 1765-1812, an early phytogeographer and curator of the Berlin Botanical Garden), the vine spikemoss, is a spectacular iridescent blue scrambler suited for the shade and humidity of terrariums, greenhouses, or moist gardens in Zone 9. The blue conifer-like leaves branch from long rambling stems. Plants need shade to develop good color. The species is from tropical Asia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Burma (Myanmar), and Indonesia and has naturalized in Florida, the West Indies, and Central America.
Selaginella willdenovii with its pastel blue foliage is an attraction in the controlled humid conditions of conservatories, terrariums, or greenhouses or in the comparably warm and close outdoor environments of perpetually subtropical to tropical habitats.
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