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Rock Clubmoss (Huperzia porophila)

Life history

Species overview

Rock Clubmoss (Huperzia porophila), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on moist, shaded cliffs in mixed conifer-hardwood forests. This species can be identified year-round.

Synonyms: Huperzia selago var. patens, H. selago var. porophila, Lycopodium porophilum, L. lucidulum var. porophilum, L. selago var. patens, L. selago var. porophila, L. selago ssp. Patens, Urostachys lucidulus var. porophilus, U. porophilus


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distiguished from H. lucidula by leaves, which are shorter (5 to 8 mm vs. 7 to 12 mm), broadest at the base (rather than about the middle), and of more equal sizes.
  • Flower characteristics:
  • Fruit characteristics: Sporophylls resembling the vegetative leaves; sporangia 1 to 1.5 mm wide, borne in axils; spores 32 to 38 microns in diameter.
  • Leaf characteristics: Sterile leaves usually spreading, mostly 5 to 8 mm long by 0.8 to 1.2 mm wide, broadest near the middle and slightly toothed above. 1 to 25 stomata on upper surface per half leaf.


  • 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: Acer rubrum, Betula alleghaniensis, B. payrifera, Acer spicatum, Pinus strobus, Clintonia borealis, Aralia nudicaulis, Lycopodium lucidulum, Cornus canadensis.

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 Rock Clubmoss (Huperzia porophila). 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 porophila in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3
Global RankG4
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 in mixed conifer-hardwood forests.
  • Soils: Acidic, rocky soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Rock 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).

Ecological landscapes

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

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Central Sand Plains 2
Western Coulee and Ridges 3

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 direct disturbance to sensitive microsites such as seeps, cliffs, and moss-covered boulders.
  • 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 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

  • Buffer management around unique microhabitats such as ephemeral ponds, seeps, etc.
  • Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.


Rock Clubmoss Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Rock Clubmoss Photo.

The leaves of Huperzia porophila have entire margins and taper to a point whereas those of the more common H. lucidula are oblanceolate and are toothed distally.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Rock Clubmoss Photo.

Photo © Dave Seils.

Rock Clubmoss Photo.

Photo © Robert Kowal, Wisconsin State Herbarium

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