Lycopodium annotinum

Tracheophyta LycopodiopsidaLycopodiaceaeLycopodiumLycopodium annotinum


A sprawling, evergreen herb typically found on mountains and moorlands amongst deep Calluna on hill slopes, and sometimes in Pinus sylvestris woods. It usually grows on acidic peaty soils, often overlying boulders, or in hollows where snow accumulates. From 45 m on Mull (S. Ebudes) to 1000 m (Coire Cheap, Westerness).



World Distribution

Circumpolar Boreo-arctic Montane element.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 6

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 3

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 3


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 0.7

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 11.7

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1760

Life form information

Height (cm): 10

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Extensively creeping and rooting at nodes

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 171

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.38

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Lycopodium annotinum L.

Interrupted clubmoss

Status: scarce



This is a plant of upland heaths, flushes, grassland and open woods, and is typically found in hollows and on steep slopes with late snow-lie in various sorts of Calluna vulgaris and Vaccinium myrtillus heath. It is a calcifuge growing on a range of base-poor substrates, usually well drained, but often with a surface layer of mor humus beneath a carpet of mosses. Associated species include numerous common heathland plants and relatively uncommon boreal species such as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Cornus suecica, Juniperus communis and Vaccinium uliginosum. In its southernmost extant locality in Langdale, it grows in acidic grassland with Agrostis spp., Festuca ovina and Nardus stricta. A predominantly upland plant, it reaches 950 metres in the Cairngorms, but descends to 45 metres on Mull. It is unaccountably rare to the north of Ross-shire. 

L. annotinum is a long-lived perennial which spreads by means of stolons at a rate of 8 to 30 cm each year. Although sections of the plant may live for 15 to 20 years, the clone may persist at a site for at least 250 years. Strobili mature in late summer, but do not release their spores until October. The average number of spores produced per strobilus is close to a million and spore production may reach several hundred million. Spores have been estimated to take 6 to 7 years to germinate and the subterranean saprophytic gametophytes take at least 12 years to reach maturity. As a consequence the minimum time for completion of the life cycle is at least 25 years. Sexual reproduction is associated with disturbance, particularly fires, soil erosion and planting of conifers.

L. annotinum has a relatively stable distribution within the Scottish Highlands, but it is likely to be still under-recorded in this area. It has been lost from a few sites owing to frequent moor burning and the planting of conifers.

Within Europe L. annotinum is a widely distributed northern suboceanic plant, primarily found in boreal forests (Jalas & Suominen 1972). Almost circumboreal, it extends into the arctic and is found as far south as the Appalachian and Rocky mountains.



A. D. Headley

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (1c)
The modular growth of Lycopodium annotinum,
Callaghan, T. V., Svensson B. M., and Headley A. D.
, Fern Gazette, Volume 13, p.65-76, (1986)

Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols,
Hultén, E., and Fries M.
, Königstein, (1986)

Jalas & Suominen (1972)
Ferns and their allies,
Bangerter, E. B., Cannon J. F. M., and Jermy A. C.
, The Island of Mull: a survey of its flora and environment, London, p.12.1-12.7, (1978)

The ferns of Britain and Ireland, edn 2,
Page, C. N.
, Cambridge, (1997)

Scarce plants in Britain,
Stewart, A., Pearman D. A., and Preston C. D.
, Peterborough, (1994)