Saturday, January 28, 2012


When I used to take walks in the woods as a child, I always loved this plant. Lycopodium was more commonly known to me as ground pine or ground cedar, though it is neither. It is in the clubmoss family and more closely related to ferns. One or more species can be found growing in most places in the world, usually in moist woods or boggy places. Lycopodium is low growing, not much more than 6-8 inches tall and is evergreen. It is the fruiting heads (you can see them in the picture) that bear the spores that are the lycopodium powder of medicine.

The powder has actually had many uses over the years, from a dusting powder for abraded surfaces, in microscopy as a standard for measuring the comparative sizes of substances (it would take 750 of then laid side by side to cover an inch), and even due to the extremely explosive nature of the spores, to produce lightning effects in the theater and in early flash photography. The spores are extremely water repellent, and if you were to dip your hand into the spore powder and then into water, you hand would not become wet.

The powder has been used both to kill lice and to improve bad wine and as a stabilizer in ice cream. One writer in an old herbal recommended it for 'female disorders', and another valued it as an aphrodisiac.

Of all of the uses, it was probably used most often as a dusting powder for eczema, and to prevent chafing in infants.

Not many of the plants I've written about have had such varied uses, both medicinal and practical - and this one you can buy on eBay for less than $12 for 25 grams, should you feel the need to experiment.
Next time - Malva rotundifolia, which here is more of a weed than a wildflower, but pretty just the same.

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