What’s called a moss, but isn’t a moss?
What looks like a conifer, but isn’t a conifer?
What’s related to ferns, but isn’t a fern?
These small seedless vascular plants (the same general group that includes ferns and horsetails) are Lycopods, or, confusingly, “clubmoss,” even though actual moss is a nonvascular plant and very different. I can only remember seeing them a couple of times in Ohio but here in Wisconsin there are places in the forest where they seem to completely carpet the ground. The novelty of them makes them fascinating to me – that, and the fact that they are the most ancient and primitive group of vascular plants.
This, I’ve decided, is my Festival of the Trees submission for the month. What do these tiny plants have to do with trees? Millions of years ago, before the tall canopy-creating plant niche was taken over by gymno- and angiosperms, dinosaurs walked in forests that were actually comprised of enormous, tree-sized Lycopods. And where do we draw the line between tree and not-tree, anyway – at what point in their evolutionary history did they lose their arboreal status? Get your eyes (and camera lens) down to ground level and imagine a miniature stegosaurus browsing here – or maybe you won’t have to imagine if a robin comes hopping through, since after all taxonomically speaking birds are dinosaurs.
My very own Jurassic Park, right outside my door.