Phylum Lycopodiophyta: Club Mosses


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 In the photo, seed-like strobili are arranged around the slender stalks of a club moss.
Lycopodium. In the club mosses such as Lycopodium clavatum, sporangia are arranged in clusters called strobili. The generic name means “wolf-foot” from the resemblance of the branched sporophyte to a paw. The specific epithet clavatum refers to the club-shaped strobilus, and reflects the common name of the phylum. (credit: Cory Zanker)

OpenStax Biology 2e

The club mosses, or phylum Lycopodiophyta, are the earliest group of seedless vascular plants. They dominated the landscape of the Carboniferous, growing into tall trees and forming large swamp forests. Today’s club mosses are diminutive, evergreen plants consisting of a stem (which may be branched) and microphylls. The phylum Lycopodiophyta consists of close to 1,200 species, including the quillworts (Isoetales), the club mosses (Lycopodiales), and spike mosses (Selaginellales), none of which are true mosses or bryophytes.

Lycophytes follow the pattern of alternation of generations seen in the bryophytes, except that the sporophyte is the major stage of the life cycle. Some lycophytes, like the club moss Lycopodium, produce gametophytes that are independent of the sporophyte, developing underground or in other locations where they can form mycorrhizal associations with fungi. In many club mosses, the sporophyte gives rise to sporophylls arranged in strobili, cone-like structures that give the class its name. Sporangia develop within the chamber formed by each sporophyll.

Lycophytes can be homosporous (spores of the same size) or heterosporous (spores of different sizes). The spike moss Selaginella is a heterosporous lycophyte. The same strobilus will contain microsporangia, which produce spores that will develop into the male gametophyte, and megasporangia, which produce spores that will develop into the female gametophyte. Both gametophytes develop within the protective strobilus.


Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at:

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