Have you seen this forest ground cover? Did you identify it as a type of fan clubmoss? It has many common names, many of those that are regionally specific. These include running cedar, ground cedar, southern running pine, ground pine, creeping cedar, Christmas green, running pine, creeping jenny, and crowsfoot. The latin name of this clubmoss is Diphasiastrum digitatum.
This plant is not a kind of cedar, nor it is a kind of moss, making both names not very accurate. It is more closely related to ferns, which like clubmosses reproduce through spores, not seeds.
Running cedar spreads through underground rhizomes (subterranean stems) and in some places can create dense monocultures. Like evergreen trees, it stays green all year, and was once a popular Christmas decoration to be used in greenery. It is a slow growing plant and extremely difficult to transplant, which is why in some areas it has become rare.
It grows up to 4 inches tall and in the summer, sends up tall reproductive structures called strobill. These bear spores for reproducing.
Clubmosses are among the most ancient of all land plants, having been around for 400 million years! 400 million! Can you imagine? They were on Earth even BEFORE the dinosaurs! These days they can be found in coniferous to mixed deciduous forests.
Have you seen it in a forest near you?
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