The Lycopodium obscurum or Ground Pine gets its scientific name from the Greek language. “Lycos” means wolf and “podus” means foot and was so named as many believed that the short, sprawling plant resembled a wolf's paw. When mature, the green plant, which is also known as club moss, resembles a miniature conifer and emits a pine aroma when crushed.
The plants are commonly found in the eastern states. Ground Pines are sometimes located in the far northern states and extend throughout Canada. The plants are also found in Asia and the eastern regions of Russia. They increase in deciduous forests and thrive beneath conifers.
The main stem of the Ground Pine grows to a height of up to 12 inches.
The stem also has a subterranean rhizome that extends to approximately 2.5 inches beneath the ground. The plant does not begin branching until the second or third year. A single shoot then forms at an angle of 90 degrees. Another shoot appears the following year on the alternate side. The new shoots grow quickly and soon produce lateral branches. Meanwhile, new rhizomes or roots begin growing underground and extend parallel to the soil's surface.
The age of the shoots is determined by the layers of microphylls in each stem, as growth halts each winter and resumes in the spring. Thus, aging the plant is similar to learning the age of a tree by counting the internal rings. Some Lycopodium species reproduce via spores while other produce little cones.
Ground Pine Uses
For years, the plants have been harvested to create holiday decorations. The plants have also been boiled to make an herbal remedy tea for use treating everything from edema, headaches and menstrual cramps to the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and sclerosis.