This mystery plant is related to various kinds of fern-like plants called clubmosses.

Do you acknowledge this thriller plant?

2 minutes, 47 seconds Read

In 1947, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) revealed a piece named “McElligot’s Pool.” In case you didn’t learn this as a baby, you possibly can as an grownup, and I like to recommend it. The story entails a bit of boy fishing in a small pond, who begins to think about the wonderful fish he would possibly hook. To me, this can be a story about our fascination with discovery, whether or not in far-off distant locations or a bit nearer to residence. Right here’s a bit of instance of the latter type of discovery. 

This previous spring, I used to be put in touch with Carol Kleppin, a pleasant girl residing in Summerville, not so removed from Charleston. It seems Carol had found a really unusual plant in her yard. She described it to me as a low floor cowl, of unknown origin, spreading quickly, and maybe it might quickly be protecting her garden. Or worse. Time for a botany street journey! 

Off to Summerville I went, intent on making an herbarium specimen or two of Carol’s plant and getting a great identification for it. Positive sufficient, this low, little factor was advancing quickly in her yard, just a few inches excessive, and it was forming a relatively substantial floor cowl all by itself. 

It seems that is associated to varied sorts of fern-like crops referred to as clubmosses. They’re from a really historical lineage, and like ferns, reproduce from spores. Carol’s crops have been mushy to the contact, forming branched mats near the bottom. Tiny egg-shaped leaves are present in rows on the perimeters of the stem, and even tinier ones in rows on the highest of the stem. 

The stem tips department repeatedly, and on the tips kind flattened branches. Generally the crops kind mounds and stick up into the air, off the bottom. When the time is true, they’ll produce very small cone-like buildings from which the creating spores might be shed, able to beginning new crops. 

This little floor cowl (which is kind of fairly, I believe, with its shiny, considerably iridescent foliage and stems) is native to southern Africa and has actually been provided within the commerce right here within the U.S. As you would possibly anticipate, a plant that reproduces by spores and is well grown in pots or terrariums is prone to unfold if it will get the prospect, and that appears to be what’s going on on this yard. 

Carol’s close-to-home discovery is certainly proof that this species is joyful to be weedy within the Southeast. To this point, it has solely been discovered outdoors cultivation in a only a few locations in Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. Nevertheless it seems as if it would but unfold additional. 

In case you occur to find crops in your yard (or wherever) that appear misplaced or in any other case odd, contemplate reporting them to a botanist at your native herbarium. Botanists are typically very nice, inquisitive creatures, they usually would possibly wish to come out and have a look. 

John Nelson is retired curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium on the College of South Carolina. As a public service, the herbarium provides free plant identifications. For extra data, go to or e mail

Reply: Matted spikemoss, Selaginella kraussiana


Sign up to receive your exclusive updates on our latest Tips & offers!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Similar Posts