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Clubmoss Root

Clubmosses frequently form dense mats of foliage, which are provided nutrients and water by their fibrous root systems. The roots are very fine and shallow, but are so extensively branched that some species can be problematic when they occur in pastures because they absorb all of the moisture available in their area of growth.

Clubmoss Root

This sponge-like activity limits the amount of water available for grasses and other plant life typically consumed by cattle so that any clubmosses present in their vicinity stifle their proliferation. Some ranchers in the American West are beginning to fight back against the clubmoss, utilizing both mechanical and chemical means in an attempt to limit their growth on rangelands and to provide a competitive advantage to desired species.

The roots of clubmosses have been utilized in the past as a mordant in the dyeing of textiles, but the spores of the evergreen plants have garnered much wider usage. The small, yellow spores have been a staple of traditional medicine, especially as a dusting powder used to treat skin conditions, such as intertrigo. The spores can be effective in treating intertrigo, which is a kind of dermatitis related to the build-up of moisture between skin folds, because a waxy substance in the spores renders them, and whatever they coat, water repellant. Clubmoss spores, often referred to as lycopodium powder, also have been used in fireworks, flash powder for cameras, and in the theatre, where a mist of them can be ignited to produce an intense, but very brief fireball.

Contributing Authors

Nathan S. Claxton, Shannon H. Neaves, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.