Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wildflower/Native Wednesday-Lycopodium

From In the Garden
Did you guess what the native plant was based on my clues last week? Isn't learning just great? This week's contribution to Wildflower/Native Wednesday is Lycopodium digitatum or complanatum, aka Running Cedar, Southern Running Cedar or Pine, and also Christmas Green. Congrats if you guessed it correctly!

I have a wonderful natural area where I try to walk each week. The total walk is about 4.5 miles; which takes me a long time to walk (don't ask how long). On these walks nature usually calls. Finding a convenient spot is not difficult and due to my Army days I am not averse to taking care of nature in the wild-I always come prepared. Anyhow, on one of my side jaunts I found this wonderful groundcover. Can you see all the green in the above picture? Wowser! What can it be? This spot of green in the dead of winter?

From In the Garden
Let's move in for a closer look. Isn't it wonderful? Don't you just want to touch it. I did and I also knew I had to know what it was. This lycopodium is growing in full shade! Okay, so maybe some sun comes through the deciduous trees but there is also another stand of the lycopodium in this natural area that is growing under cedar trees. No sun will ever reach it there. Anything that grows in full shade is a good thing for me and gets my attention. Now to identify the plant.

I came home from my walk really anxious to try to identify this plant. I knew it smelled like an Eastern red cedar and it was also scaly like red cedars. It grew all along the ground so I figured it was a ground cover. I searched the web and all my garden books for an evergreen groundcover that smells and looks like a juniper-something to that effect. No luck. Evergreen groundcover Google searches come up with such things as pachysandra, liriope, the dreaded vinca and others. I knew my plant was none of these. I grew a bit frustrated but then I remembered I had seen this plant on a blog at some point. I did not know which blog but knew it was either Les at a Tidewater Gardener or How it Grows. Both bloggers are located in Virginia. Considering how many blogs I read I was very happy I could narrow it down to just these two bloggers. I immediately emailed them both. Both were nice enough to respond to me with an identification (this was back in December while I was on break). I was so happy to learn the identity of this groundcover! Les also sent me a link to his post that mentioned Running Cedar. Thanks guys! I very much appreciate your help! You see how we learn from blogging and from one another? This is one very important reason I blog-to learn.

From In the Garden

Now for a bit more learning and research into this plant. When I Google 'running cedar' or lycopodium I find the results to be rather disappointing. There are a few results-mainly the websites have some pictures and do identify it but they don't give much information on the plant. I'd like to know a bit about the plant like its history and uses. I was able to find a listing in my Southern Living Garden Book! Kudos to Southern Living! The entry is very light on information concerning lycopodium but at least it was listed. Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants does not mention lycopodium at all. I also can't seem to find lycopodium in other books but I'm still looking. I am not sure if Lycopodium digitatum and complanatum are the same thing or not but they look to be the same on the websites I found listing them. I did find one website that said the old name was complanatum but that it is now digitatum but I'm not sure if it is a regional difference or not. Scientist I am not so I will stick with lycopodium, aka running cedar for this lovely groundcover.

One thing I am sure of is that this running cedar is in the Lycopodiaceae
family. This family is known as a club moss family. Club mosses are fern allies. Fern allies grow in the same conditions as ferns but are not true ferns botanically speaking even though they reproduce by spores-they do not flower or grow seeds (this lycopodium also spreads by runners). Do you remember my post last spring about spike moss? Spike moss is in the family Selaginella and is also a fern ally. I find fern allies a fascinating group of plants and would like to grow them here in my garden. If you know more about running cedar or fern allies please weigh in on the issue so we can all learn. Thanks.

Be sure to visit Gail at Clay and Limestone for more Wildflower Wednesday posts....

in the garden....


Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team,

In the Garden

28 comments:

  1. That groundcover is beautiful.

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  2. Thanks for the shout-out. Have a great day!

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  3. Good morning all!

    Dawn, It's really a unique groundcover. Have you ever seen it in Maine?

    Les, Thanks again for your help! I hope to learn more from you.

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  4. Tina,
    I always enjoyed this special plant when I lived in Ohio. We have a large area covered with it in my neighbors woods right along our driveway. The nature park about a mile from here had a wonderful place filled with it also. Have you seen it in bloom?

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  5. I like this groundcover Tina. It has great texture. I don't remember seeing it around here, but perhaps in the forest around East Texas. There is something really familiar about it.
    Sounds like you have a great place for a walk! Think I would like to join you!! :)

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  6. What a neat groundcover. Love the soft green--your top photo shows a large area of cover. Is that a colony or one plant? Or can we tell?
    Les and Phillip are great resources. Glad they helped you.

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  7. Looks as if your Army training days have taught you well in carrying out a mission! The fight to find the true identity of friend or foe in the gardening world..kudos to you. This is a lovely ground cover, my only question..is it itchy? as my girls would say.

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  8. I am so glad you joined the WW hit parade to share this truly special native and one I would love to find in my garden~especially since it appears to tolerate dry soil! Thanks also for the shout out! Gail

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  9. Randy, I've not seen it in bloom but will look for it this summer, I think it blooms in August? Should be neat! Great to hear it grows in Ohio.

    Linda, I love company and always try to walk with friends. Come along anytime!

    Janet, Yup! That is all the running cedar. It runs by runners and it is really neat. To rooted deeply at all. It is unusual as I've never seen it before (or really noticed it). Blogging makes me pay better attention I think.

    Darla, Yes indeed! The Army has prepared me for about anything. I have a job interview today so let's hope I'm prepared for that too! No, this is not itchy. It smells like greens and has a texture like evergreen spruces I guess? It has a leaf similar to juniper but not prickly at all. Very soft so that you can almost lie down on it. I think the fairies must like to dance under it in this enchanted location.

    Gail, I've read it is difficult to establish colonies. It is probably not likely to show up in your garden:( But one never knows. It would beat that old vinca any day!

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  10. Janet, I meant to say not rooted deeply at all. Sometimes my head is faster than my hands.

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  11. Very neat to find a native groundcover!

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  12. What an interesting groundcover, Tina; I've never seen this before. It looks like something that would be perfect for your shaded areas.

    I'm impressed by your 4 1/2 mile walk each week. I'm still thinking about participating in the 5K walk here in early May, but if I don't start walking regularly soon, I'll be lucky to go a mile:)

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  13. Hi Tina, No, I did not guess it was running cedar, because that plant doesn't grow here at all. So it was entirely new to me and I'm glad to learn about it. I'm planning to walk about 5 miles today, to the bank and back, because I have to get a little more mobile before gardening season starts!! I hate exercise but I don't mind running errands on foot (or on 2 wheels when there isn't snow).

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  14. Running Cedar grew wild on my husband's grandparents' farm. It's a beautiful groundcover. They had a wild Flame Azalea too!

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  15. I can't help with any information ~ just wanted to say it's pretty. I like the lacy look of it.

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  16. Rain and cold are back in GA. Ho Hum…

    After reading this post Tina, I think I have seen this somewhere! I went back to picture files and after weeding through tons of them, I could not find a pic of it. But I just know I have seen it before. I think I may have seen it in Fredericksburg, VA which would make sense with Les and How it Grows being in Virginia. It looks like a really nice plant and I can see why it would be used in Christmas decorations. Glad to know it is protected now….

    Good Luck on your Interview today!!!

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  17. When you want to learn about something you really go all out. We are lucky because then you pass all of you knowledge onto us!
    I've never heard of Running Cedar, it's very pretty. Anything that can grow in dry shade and is evergreen is a good thing!

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  18. It's great when you can turn to the blogasphere to get answers on perplexing questions. I have never seen that plant before. I guess it is not hardy where I live.

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  19. I've seen this plant before. I didn't know it's name. Now I do. I will have to pay more attention to ground covers. I did however know that it was soft to the touch. Yeah, I handled it to see.
    I saw my first buttercup bloom today. Yipeee, Spring is on it's way.
    Rainy & colder too. Getting colder.
    Good luck on your interview.

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  20. I like the sound of “wildflower Wednesday.” I hope you post more. The textures are lovely, and I enjoy seeing stuff I might otherwise miss.

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  21. This is not a wildflower but I saw my first buttercup bloom today. Now if we could just get some warmer temps.
    Tina, went to cut some forsythia to bring in & discovered that 2 of the limbs had touched the ground & rooted. Yeah, rooted, so now I have 3 plants. How & when should I cut the "rooted" ones away from the mother plant?

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  22. Lola, Yeah for spring! You can most likely cut the forsythia babies from the mother plant anytime they have good roots (probably now. They do tend to spread a lot so watch it to make sure it does not take over.

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  23. Did you find Lycopodium on any lists of endangered or protected species? I'm pretty sure it is protected in some states.

    I know that Peter Loewer mentions it being plundered for decorations, in his book The Winter Garden: Planning and Planting for the Southeast.

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  24. Hi NellJean, I did find it listed as being protected for that exact reason-folks like to use it as Christmas decorations. I'm going to check out that book. Thanks!

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  25. Lucky that you remembered what blogs you might have seen it on. Isn't it fun when you have a mystery solved? That is one part of gardening I really enjoy, too.
    Always nice to know about those plants that easily grow in shade, too.

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  26. What a fabulous plant, I've never heard of it, but love at first sight :)

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