Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stag's-horn Clubmoss/Wolf's Claw/Ulvefod

Lycopodium clavadum
Wolf's Claw/Stag's-horn Clubmoss/Ulvefod,  LilleVildmose

This genus consists of about 450 species of rhizomatous, evergreen, perennial clubmosses, which may be terrestrial or epiphytic in habit. They are primitive plants, with small, scale- or needle-like leaves, reproducing by spores.The botanic name comes from the word lykos meaning wolf and podion meaning little foot, it refers to the scale-like soft tips of the leaves, which remind about a wolf's foot.

Various English names : Antler Herb / Club Moss / Common club moss / Foxtail / Ground Pine / Lycopod / Muscus Terrestris Repens / Running clubmoss / Running pine / Stagshorn Clubmoss / Vegetable Sulphur / Witch Meal / Wolf's Claw

Ulvefod /Wolf's claw was earlier a characeristic and common plant in Danish heaths and pastures, but it must now be considered very rare in Jutland and at Bornholm and rare upon the other Danish Isles.   

Ulvefod/Wolf's Claw, Lille Vildmose

Folk Medicine

The spores of the plant were once used as an antispasmodic means for children and against  hiccups,cough and whooping cough. All green parts were used in liver-, bladder- and gall -disorders. The use of the spores alone dates from the 17th century. According to Mrs. Grieve (A Modern Herbal, 1931), "they have a strong repulsive power, that if the hand is powdered with them, it can be dipped in water without becoming wet". This property is put to use in coating pills, to seal in any unpleasant taste, and to prevent them from sticking together. The Witch flour from the spores was mixed in powder as a means against raw skin and nettle rash. In Cornwall, club mosses gathered during certain lunar phases were historically used as a remedy for eye disease. The plant contains poisonous alcaloids.

Wild collection of Lycopodium species may be subject to restrictions in some areas.
Witch Flour
The fine spores make a yellow powder called Witch flour, because it when set on fire burns without smoke. Clubmoss spores are used in sound experiments, being so fine that they vibrate into patterns of sound waves, and also for stage effects and fireworks, since they are flammable. The spores have been used by violin makers as a pore filler.
Stag's-horn Clubmoss, Lille Vildmose

Stag's-horn Clubmoss or Wolf's Claw  was considered a magic plant, which was able to protect against witches and trolls. In order to protect oneself against the evil forces you could wear a belt made of  Wolf's Claw on Midnight's Eve. The animals in the stable were protected, if the farmer hung the plant above the stable door.

Source: Anemette Olesen, Danske Klosterurter, 2001.
photo Lille Vildmose June 2009: grethe bachmann


gapingwhole said...

I love these little remnants of the past... of times when the landscape was dominated by much simpler life forms.

Thyra said...

Yes, so do I. I hope that this little plant won't disappear like so many others. Fortunately this one grows in a listed place.
Grethe ´)