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Low Spike-moss (Selaginella selaginoides)

Life history

Species overview

Low Spike-moss (Selaginella selaginoides), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found at the tip of the Door Peninsula in moist, mossy swales. The optimal identification period for this species is late June through late September.

Synonyms: Lycopodium selaginoides


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Leaves thin, toothed, loose, not bristle-tipped; sporophylls many-ranked.
  • Flower characteristics:
  • Fruit characteristics: Sporophylls mostly 10-ranked, larger and more prominently spinulose than the leaves; megaspores pale-yellowish, 0.5 mm wide, with low tubercules on the commissural faces.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaves spirally arranged, ascending or spreading, thin, lanceolate, remotely spinulose-toothed, up to 4 mm long by 1 mm wide.


  • Blooming phenology:
  • Fruiting phenology:
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late June through late September


  • Growth form: Fern ally
  • Vegetative reproduction: Sporulation
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Thuja occidentalis, Larix laricina, Picea mariana, Linnaea borealis, Goodyera repens.

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 Low Spike-moss (Selaginella selaginoides). 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 Selaginella selaginoides in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
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 at the tip of the Door Peninsula in moist, mossy swales.
  • Soils: Wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Low Spike-moss. 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
Great Lakes Ridge and Swale 2
Boreal Forest 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Low Spike-moss. 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
Northern Lake Michigan Coastal 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 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 site preparation that heavily disturbs herbaceous ground layer and soil; these include bulldozing and furrowing, as well as grubbing and stump removal.
  • 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.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.


Low Spike-moss Photo.

Photo © Jim McEvoy.

Low Spike-moss Photo.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Low Spike-moss Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Low Spike-moss Photo.

Photo © Joshua Mayer.

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