Huperzia appressa (Desv.) A. & D. Löve

mountain firmoss

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Mountain firmoss is found on exposed, windswept cliffs, ridges and summits, usually at high elevations, but occasionally at low elevations on the Maine coast. It sometimes forms hybrids with other firmosses (Huperzia).

Habitat

Alpine or subalpine zones, cliffs, balds, or ledges, mountain summits and plateaus, ridges or ledges

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
Leaf shape
the vegetative leaves are short and scale-like
Spore leaf arrangement
the sporophylls are located in whorls along the shoot
Form of shoot
the plant has an upright stem, and the stem has simple branches
Horizontal stem
there is no horizontal stem
Leaf differences
the vegetative leaves within a node are all similar in size and shape
Teeth on leaf edges
the edges of the vegetative leaves have no teeth
Constriction zones
  • NA
  • there are no constrictions on the vertical stem with smaller leaves
Leaf outline
  • the vegetative leaves are widest above the base, then taper narrowly towards the tip (lanceolate)
  • the vegetative leaves are roughly triangular, widest at the base where the leaf joins the stem
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Gemma arrangement
    the gemmae are produced all over the upper part of the shoot
    Gemma shape
    the tips of the leaves of the gemma are acute (sharply pointed)
    Gemma width
    2.5–3.5 mm
  • Leaves
    Leaf differences
    the vegetative leaves within a node are all similar in size and shape
    Leaf length
    2–6 mm
    Leaf orientation
    • the vegetative leaves are pressed against the stem
    • the vegetative leaves spread slightly away from the stem, at a steep angle
    Leaf outline
    • the vegetative leaves are widest above the base, then taper narrowly towards the tip (lanceolate)
    • the vegetative leaves are roughly triangular, widest at the base where the leaf joins the stem
    Leaf ranks
    NA
    Leaf shape
    the vegetative leaves are short and scale-like
    Pores on leaves
    there are pores on both sides of the vegetative leaves
    Teeth on leaf edges
    the edges of the vegetative leaves have no teeth
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • alpine or subalpine zones
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • mountain summits and plateaus
    • ridges or ledges
  • Spores or spore cones
    Cone base at stem
    NA
    Cone stalk branching
    NA
    Cone thickness
    0 mm
    Cone width
    0 mm
    Length of cone
    0 mm
    Number of cones
    0
    Quillwort itssue covering spores
    NA
    Same or different spores
    there is only one type of spore present
    Spore diameter
    0.029–0.037
    Spore girdle
    NA
    Spore leaf arrangement
    the sporophylls are located in whorls along the shoot
    Spore leaf lifespan
    the sporophylls remain green for the life of the plant
    Spore leaf orientation
    the sporophylls are pressed against the spore cone
    Spore leaf shape
    the spore-bearing leaves are small and scale-like
    Spore leaf teeth
    The edges of the spore-bearing leaves are smooth, and without teeth
    Spore texture
    the spore surface has an irregular pattern of ridges and empty spaces (rugulate), or it has minute pits on it (foveolate)
    Sporophyll ranks
    NA
    Sterile tip of cone
    NA
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Branch cross-section
    the outermost level of branches are round, elliptic or semicircular in cross-section
    Branch form
    the branches are similar in size to the main stem
    Constriction zones
    • NA
    • there are no constrictions on the vertical stem with smaller leaves
    Form of shoot
    the plant has an upright stem, and the stem has simple branches
    Horizontal stem
    there is no horizontal stem
    Horizontal stem length
    0 mm
    Horizontal stem thickness
    0 mm
    Stem height
    60–100 mm

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Connecticut
historical (S-rank: SH), special concern, extirpated (code: SC*)
Maine
rare (S-rank: S2), special concern (code: SC)
Massachusetts
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
New Hampshire
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
Vermont
rare (S-rank: S2)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Huperzia selago:
grows mainly at low elevations, such as pond shores, boggy openings, and ditches, and has 1 whorl of branches with gemmae at the summit of each year of growth (vs. H. appessa, which grows mainly at high elevations, such as mountain tops, alpine plateaus, and cliff faces, and has multiple whorls of gemmiferous branches each year).

Synonyms

  • Huperzia appalachiana Beitel & Mickel
  • Huperzia selago (L.) Schrank & Mart. ssp. appressa(Desv.) D. Löve
  • Lycopodium selago L. ssp. appressum(Desv.) Hultén
  • Lycopodium selago L. var. appressum Desv.
  • Urostachys selago (L.) Herter var. appressus (Desv.) Herter ex Ness.

Family

Huperziaceae

Genus

Huperzia

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Huperzia appressa (Desv.) A. & D. Löve N

mountain firmoss. Huperzia appalachiana Beitel & Mickel; H. selago (L.) Schrank & Mart. ssp. appressa (Desv.) D. Löve; Lycopodium selago L. var. appressum Desv.; L. selago L. ssp. appressum (Desv.) Hultén; Urostachys selago (L.) Herter var. appressus (Desv.) Herter ex Ness. • CT, MA, ME, NH, VT; southern New England sites are highly disjunct. Exposed, windswept cliffs, ridges, and summits, often at high elevation, though at low elevation on Mount Desert Island and Isle au Haut, ME. Shade forms of this species are sometimes confused with the hybrid Huperzia ×‌josephbeitelii, which is most frequently encountered in alpine areas.

1×2. Huperzia appressa × Huperzia lucidula Huperzia ×‌protoporophila A. Haines is a rare hybrid known from MA, ME, NH, VT. It occurs on cliffs and summits and in alpine gullies. In New England, this taxon is abortive-spored (compared with the fertile tetraploid Huperzia porophila (Lloyd & Underwood) Holub of the mid-Atlantic and Midwest states). It has leaf morphology comparable to H. ×‌buttersii but has somewhat dimorphic trophophylls (as to basal and apical; vs. nearly monomorphic), narrower lateral gemmae leaves (1.2–1.6 mm vs. 1.5–2 mm), and gemmae borne in 1 or 2 pseudowhorls at the apex of each season’s growth (vs. always 1 pseudowhorl at the apex of each season’s growth).

1×3. Huperzia appressa × Huperzia selago Huperzia ×‌josephbeitelii A. Haines is the most common firmoss hybrid in 
New England and is known from ME, NH. It is found primarily above treeline in alpine areas. Like other Huperzia hybrids, this nothospecies has polymorphic (i.e., abortive) spores. The plants are similar to shade forms of H. appressa but are more stocky 
(i.e., shoots 7–10 mm wide inclusive of trophophylls vs. 3–7 mm) and have larger gemmae (the lateral leaves 1–1.5 mm wide vs. 0.5–1.1 (–1.2) mm).