Name: Dendrolycopodium obscurum aka Lycopodium obscurum, aka ground pine or princess pine.
Type of Plant: This is a club moss that is native to the eastern North America. Club mosses are low, evergreen plants with scale-like leaves.
Why I Love/Hate this plant: Princess pine looks like a tiny pine tree even though it’s not a conifer. It’s evergreen, and grows as an understory, forest floor plant in wild areas. At this time of year it’s especially welcome as much of the forest floor is brown with oak leaves and pine needles.
A Word to the Wise: Here are two interesting fun facts: this plant’s main stem grows underground as a creeping rhizome. The green tubular structure on a mature plant is a spore-bearing cone. When they are mature they release a fine dust of tiny spores that are so rich in oil that in old-time photography they were used to make flash paper.
These plants have also been used to make garlands at Christmas time, but keep in mind that you should NEVER pull them off of public land for any reason at all. Two states have declared this as an endangered plant…if you see it as you walk through the woods, cherish the site and leave it untouched.