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Fir Clubmoss (Huperzia selago)

Life history

Species overview

Fir Clubmoss (Huperzia selago), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on moist, shaded cliffs on the Lake Superior shoreline. It has also been found inland in a black spruce/balsam-fir swamp. This species can be identified year-round.

Synonyms: Huperzia selago var. selago, Lycopodium selago, Lycopodium selago var. selago, Plananthus selago, Urostachys selago


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distiguished from H. lucidula by the entire leaves (rather than leaves toothed at the tip) and from H. appalachiana by the annual growth constrictions and longer leaves.
  • Flower characteristics:
  • Fruit characteristics: Sporophylls resembling the vegetative leaves, 1 to 1.5 mm wide; spores 32 to 38 microns in diameter, with concave sides and smooth commissural faces.
  • Leaf characteristics: Sterile leaves usually ascending, equal sizes throughout, in about 8 ranks, broadest at or near the base, gradually tapering to a sharp point at the tip, entire, glossy, 3 to 5 mm long by 0.6 to 0.8 mm wide, often with axillary buds.


  • Blooming phenology:
  • Fruiting phenology: July through September
  • Optimum time to identify: This species can be identified year-round


  • Growth form: Fern ally
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Primula mistassinica, Abies balsamea, Betula papyrifera, Thuja occidentalis, Sorbus decora, Ledum groenlandicum, Cornus stolonifera, Alnus viridis, Campanula rotundifolia, Agrostis hyemalis.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Fir Clubmoss (Huperzia selago). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Huperzia selago in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1S2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on moist, shaded cliffs on the Lake Superior shoreline. It has also been found inland in a black spruce/balsam-fir swamp.
  • Soils: Moist, rocky soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Fir Clubmoss. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Boreal Forest 2
Moist Cliff 3
Inland Beach 3
Bedrock Shore 1

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Fir Clubmoss. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid direct disturbance to sensitive microsites such as seeps, cliffs, and moss-covered boulders.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Avoid disturbance to shorelines and the forest-beach interface.
  • Buffer management around unique microhabitats such as ephemeral ponds, seeps, etc.


Fir Clubmoss Photo.

Photo © Tom Gerstenberger.

Fir Clubmoss Photo.

Huperzia (Lycopodium) selago

Photo © Joshua Horky.

Fir Clubmoss Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition