northern groundcedar

(Diphasiastrum complanatum)

Conservation Status
northern groundcedar
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status

FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Northern groundcedar is an erect, evergreen, perennial club moss. It produces sparingly-branched horizontal stems (rhizomes) from which rise erect, vertical shoots. Fibrous roots emerge from the underside of the horizontal stems.

The horizontal stems are green, 1 32 to 1 16 wide, and round in cross section. They appear on the surface of the ground, often shallowly buried under leaf litter. They are sparsely covered with tiny, scale-like leaves. Horizontal stem leaves are linear to narrowly lance-shaped, 1 16 to long, 1 32 to 1 16 wide, and appressed or slightly spreading. They taper to a point at the tip with straight sides along the tip.

Vertical stems can be 3 to 11 in height but are usually 4¾ to 8tall. They are 1 16 to ¼ in diameter, medium green, and sparsely covered with scale-like leaves. Vertical stem leaves are narrowly lance-shaped, 1 32 to long, 1 64 to 1 32 wide, and appressed or slightly spreading. They extend down the stem at the base and taper to a point at the tip with straight or concave sides along the tip. Each vertical stem has 2 to 5 lateral branches.

Lateral branches conspicuously broad, flattened, and held horizontally to the ground. They are irregularly divided into branchlets. Each of the branchlets are also divided. Eventually, the branches are divided successively usually 2 or 3 times but up to 5 times.

The branchlets are 1 16 to wide, flat in cross section, and held horizontally to the ground. They are abruptly and conspicuously narrowed (constricted) at the conjunction of successive years growth. The upper side is green, slightly shiny, and flat. The underside is pale green, dull, and flat. There are four column-like rows of leaves, one row along each edge and one row on each surface. Lateral leaves are linear lance-shaped, to ¼ long, 1 32 to 1 16 wide, and appressed. Upper side leaves are similar but smaller. Under side leaves are narrowly triangular-shaped and much smaller.

The reproductive structures (sporangia) are born in tight, cone-shaped structures (strobili). The strobili appear singly or in pairs, sometimes in clusters of 3 or 4, at the end of one or two stalks (peduncles) that rise from the tips of the vertical stems. The peduncles are forked at equal distances. The strobilus can be 516 to 1¼ long, but is usually to 1 long and 1 16 to wide. It is blunt at the tip and does not have a sterile tip. The leaf that bears the sporangium (sporophyll) is 1 16 to long and wide and broadly triangular to nearly heart-shaped. The sporangium is kidney-shaped.




Usually 4¾ to 8


Similar Species


Dry. Coniferous forests.




July to October


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Polypodiophytina  
  Class Lycopodiopsida  
  Subclass Lycopodiidae  


Lycopodiales (clubmosses and firmosses)  


Lycopodiaceae (clubmosses and firmosses)  
  Subfamily Lycopodioideae  


Diphasiastrum (ground cedars)  

Club mosses in the genus Diphasiastrum readily crossbreed with other species in the same genus. The hybrids that are produced are fertile. Fertile hybrids are common in the animal kingdom but rare in the plant kingdom.


Subordinate Taxa






Diphasium anceps

Diphasium complanatum

Diphasium complanatum ssp. montellii

Diphasium wallrothii

Lycopodium anceps

Lycopodium complanatum

Lycopodium complanatum ssp. anceps

Lycopodium complanatum var. canadense


Common Names


Christmas green

creeping jenny

flat-branched club-moss



northern running-pine

northern groundcedar

trailing ground-pine












Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



In angiosperms, the stalk of a single flower or a flower cluster; in club mosses, the stalk of a strobilus or a group of strobili.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



A spore bearing structure, as of a fern or moss.



A modified leaf that bears one or more sporangia.



The process of forming spores.



A cone-like structure of horsetails (Equisetaceae) and clubmosses (Lycopodiaceae) composed of sporophylls densely arranged along a central axis.

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    northern groundcedar   northern groundcedar  


    northern groundcedar   northern groundcedar  

Lateral Branches

    northern groundcedar      






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Other Videos
  Diphasiastrum complanatum i D. zeilleri w Gorcach.

Dec 15, 2018

Wspaniałe stanowisko rzadkiego widlicza spłaszczonego (Diphasiastrum complanatum) i widlicza Zeillera (Diphasiastrum zeilleri) na południowym stoku Bukowiny Obidowskiej (1039m n.p.m.) w Gorcach.

Google Translate: A magnificent stand of the rare flattened specters (Diphasiastrum complanatum) and Zeiller's specters (Diphasiastrum zeilleri) on the southern slope of Bukovina Obidowska (1039m above sea level) in Gorce.




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Location: Crow Wing St. Park





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