Recognition: ground-hugging, smothering lycophyte, whose small, pale-green leaves give its stems a feathery look. The sporangia (which produce spores) are aggregated into inconspicuous cones.
Distribution/ecology: indigenous to Africa, but a widespread, nuisance-weed in New Zealand. It is capable of invading even intact forest, particularly in wet and shady areas. African clubmoss can form carpets on the forest floor that inhibit regeneration of indigenous species.
Relationships: in the Selaginellaceae family of lycophytes. Lycophytes are not ferns (the latter being more closely related to seed plants). Lycophytes generally have small leaves and lack the ‘fronds’ typical of most ferns.
There are no Selaginellaceae indigenous to New Zealand. But the related Lycopodiaceae is represented in New Zealand by 11 indigenous species, many of similar form, in the genera Huperzia, Lycopodiella, Lycopodium, and Phylloglossum. New Zealand Lycopodiaceae range in habitat from lowland to alpine, swamp to forest.
Lycophytes are generally small plants, although they can creep and climb extensively. Epiphytic Huperzia can have 2+ metres long pendulous stems, while tropical Selaginella can be erect to near 2 metres tall.