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vert bar Conservation and monitoring of legally protected fern allies in Ireland

Noeleen Smyth (National Botanic Gardens)
Last updated: 10th January 2011

Background information on club-mosses (Lycopodiaceae)

Ireland is home to four species of clubmoss (Lycopodiaceae): Diphasistrum alpinum, Huperzia selago, Lycopodiella inundata and Lycopodium clavatum, all of which generally occur in lake-margins, wet lowland and upland bogs, moorlands, heaths and mountains (Webb et al., 1996). Except for H. selago, which is locally frequent, D. alpinum, L. clavatum and L. inundata are regarded as rare and declining species in Ireland (Webb et al., 1996). These species were formerly more widespread throughout Britain and Ireland but their lowland ranges have been drastically reduced over the past decades due to habitat destruction and degradation of bogs, and over-collection for “miniature landscaping” of model railways and architecture models. All four species are protected by local and international legislation. They are currently listed in the Red Data Vascular Plants working list (2007) and on Annex V (92/42/EEC) of the European Union Habitats Directive Annex V (92/42/EEC), which has been transposed to Irish Law (Statutory Instrument 94 of 1997 – First Schedule Part II-8 Ferns and Relatives).

Webb D.A., J. Parnell & D. Doogue, 1996. An Irish Flora. Dundalgan Press (W. Tempest) Ltd. Dundalk.






Project aims

To document all known records of clubmosses in Ireland and to visit a selected number of sites for detailed monitoring and record colony area, shoot size, habitat description and whether sporing occurs as an indication of population health. Previously the group have been treated as one unit. However, research to date has highlighted that each species is responding differently to environmental pressures with some becoming extremely rare in Ireland. Locations for the four Lycopodiaceae species were sourced from herbarium records at the National Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, Dublin and the NBN website. In addition, Declan Doogue, Paul Newross, Tom Curtis and various County rangers were also contacted to obtain records.

Summary of work to date

  • Only H. selago populations were relocated in all sites surveyed (see Maps).
  • D. alpinum, L. clavatum and especially L. inundata were relocated in only a few previously sites.
  • L. clavatum and L. inundata were restricted in distribution, and only the former occurred in large populations though attempts to refind previous records in some cases were unsuccessful.
  • Spores were found in all populations of Lycopodiaceae.
Clubmoss species in Ireland
D. alpinum H. selago L. inundata L. clavatum
No. sites surveyed 7 12 5 6
No. sites where species refound 5 12 2 2
Estimated change 28.6% decline No change 60% decline 66.7% decline



Project Staff and Partners

National Parks and Wildlife Service are thanked for funding this research, into conservation and monitoring of clubmoss species in Ireland.