CNPS Forums

CNPS Forums (
-   Growing Natives Discussion Forum (
-   -   Selaginella, subgenus Tetragonostachys (

terrestrial_man 03-08-2012 08:43 PM

Selaginella, subgenus Tetragonostachys
1 Attachment(s)
It was several years ago while studying the chaparral for a course taught by Dr. C. H. Muller, I began to notice some moss-like plant that was growing out from underneath rocks in the Sierra Madre of Northern Santa Barbara County. In time, in 1973, I did a rather informal investigation of this plant that I later identified as Selaginella bigelovii in its habitat along the upper slopes of the southeast banks of the Cuyama River.
It was a very interesting habitat consisting of very loose shale-like rocks and assorted gravels with large boulders and outcrops with intermittent appearances of Eriogonum, Silene, Dudleya, Yucca, and grass species, with oaks appearing at the tops of the slopes. What was remarkable to me at the time was the fact that this plant, while green and mossy looking during Spring, would become a
dead looking, dried up, and curled up mass of brownish stems that somehow rejuvenated upon the occasion of rain.
I sought to understand this and after a particularly heavy series of rain storms, I drove out to the area and was able to find a nice sized clump of the Selaginella that had been washed loose from the slope. I took it home as I wanted to see that if I were to water it well and then let it dry out completely if it would come back to life. It did not!
Apparently there was much more going on beneath the surface of its habitat than eye could reconnoiter!
It was not until several years later that I had the opportunity to try and see if I could find out just what enabled the species to survive in such a dynamic environment when I stumbled upon the offerring of Selaginella bigelovii for sale by an online retailer of native ferns up in Washington state.
What follows are journals that I have developed for each of the species that I have been privileged to investigate and been able to cultivate.

terrestrial_man 03-08-2012 08:56 PM

Selaginella bigelovii
I was able to procure plants from two distinct populations of this species. I developed the following.
Form typical of Cuyama River population from San Diego County
Stem and leaf characteristics, click page 2 link below
Strobili and sporophyll characteristics, click page 3 link below
Mission Gorge (San Diego County) population overview, click page 4 link below
Mission Gorge population general characteristics, click page 5 link below

terrestrial_man 03-11-2012 01:43 PM

Selaginella oregana
Of the 10 native Californian species of Selaginella, Selaginella oregana is the most distinct in that it occurs as an epiphyte whereas all other species are strictly terrestrial. Perhaps it is more closely allied to the ancestry of the species that arose from epiphytic lycophytes as S. oregana often has vegetative strobili along the course of its pendant stems.
Over-view of plant, click link below
Leaf characteristics, click link below
Strobili over-view, click link below
Regular strobili, click link below
Vegetative strobili, click link below

While naturally occurring as an epiphytic and occasionally as a terrestrial, the species can be easily grown as a pot plant.

terrestrial_man 03-11-2012 08:23 PM

A short key to the California native selaginellas
2 Attachment(s)
While taxonomy can be interesting, often the keys that are employed can prove to be rather laborious and at times almost cryptic. I have found this to be the case with the keys to the species of Selaginella.
To counter the confusion of using current keys I have developed this very short and easy to use key to the species of the subgenus Tetragonostachys that occur within the state of California.
To view the one page key click on the link to the attachment.
Please note that I have revised the key on the treatment of S. hansenii as of March 22, 2012.

I have added a New Key which is more comprehensive than the Short Key and is designed to provide a more exact keying.

DanH 03-12-2012 02:32 PM

Well this is very cool. Looks like somebody is a Selaginella expert! I have not yet paid much attention to these plants, but maybe I should.

Have you tried propagating these from spores?

Do you have any planted in your yard, or do you just keep them potted?

Oh, and that key is pretty awesome. Looks simple enough. I might have to try it out :-)

terrestrial_man 03-12-2012 05:45 PM

Thanks Dan. I have not tried to propagate from spores. It is much easier just to divide up the plants but I have not really done much of that either. Only with one species, S. underwoodii, in an experiment to see how the plant responded to different types of potting mixes as I tried to learn how to grow these babies. Several failures but I have found the right potting mix formula which I will be posting up here sometime this month, if not this week.
Unless you have a scree or rock garden in your yard these plants are not really for regular gardening. Also, though I believe they might survive our hard waters if they have excellent drainage, they need at the least reverse-osmosis water, or distilled, deionized or rain water.

Let me know how you fare with the key. It really requires that you know about the physical characteristics of the plant out front as well as where they come from. A major reference is at efloras.

terrestrial_man 03-12-2012 07:21 PM

A glossary of the characterisitcs of the Tetragonostachys
1 Attachment(s)
The attached PDF file is an illustrated glossary of the characteristics of these Selaginella species with correlation to the respective species possessing such attributes. It should provide an excellent source of information for those who have no idea what a sporophyll or an abaxial ridge is.
I would recommend printing out the 7 pages for future reference if you plan to check out these unique plants in the future.

terrestrial_man 03-12-2012 11:59 PM

Selaginella wallacei
Perhaps one of the most commonly encountered species of native Selaginella species in western North America, Selaginella wallacei has a very extensive range of occurrence. With such a range there appears to be a comparable variation in the gross appearance of the species from Selaginella bigelovii type of erect plants to prostrate Selaginella densa type of plants. Yet the basic characteristics which set this unique species apart hold true irregardless of its particular growth habit.
To illustrate this variation I am including journals on the species that occurs in Washington state, in addition to a California form common in Napa County.
Characteristics noted on the California form, click link below
The Washington state form over view, click link below
Characteristics noted on the Washington form, click link below

terrestrial_man 03-13-2012 11:47 PM

Finding the RIGHT substrate
1 Attachment(s)
I first begun trying to grow Selaginella species of the Tetragonostachys in late 2004 with a plant of Selaginella bigelovii. I had no idea on just what was the best media for it though I knew it needed good drainage. Over the course of time since I have tried different kinds of substrates and have met with success with some and failure with others. Unfortunately, failure meant loss of the particular plant I was testing. Tired of shooting in the dark, in 2008 I undertook a concerted effort to try and pin down what might be the preferable substrate for growing these plants.
I had plenty of Selaginella underwoodii, a plant that is native to mountainous areas from Texas across to Arizona and northward through Oklahoma, Colorado, and Utah into western Wyoming, as it had grown exceptionally well for me. I used this as the test subject and used ZipLoc XS bowls, which are some 3.5 inches across and 2 inches high, into which I had punched drainage holes around the bases of the bowls.
To view my experiment please click on the link below. Please note that the first image per page were all taken on June 10, 2008. The follow up images were all taken on Sept. 18, 2009.

terrestrial_man 03-14-2012 05:47 PM

A Basic Cultural Perspective
1 Attachment(s)
Growing the Tetragonostachys is relatively easy ONCE you have established the plant in its new habitat (pot, container). The only real requirement is to give the plant the best quality water that is available: either reverse/osmosis, distilled, deionized, or rain. For newly potted plants a thorough soaking upon the initial potting followed by daily mistings and weekly waterings should be sufficient for weather that is typical for central coastal California. Adjustment in care must be made according to exposure, temperature highs and lows, and the severity of any dessicating factors, such as Santa Anas. Once established, within 12 months time, the plant can be watered weekly and misted as weather demands and as the plant responds by drying back.
Please click on the link below to read about basic tactics and substrate recommendations.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 10:10 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright 2005-2009, California Native Plant Society, All rights reserved.