Harvesting Club Moss Spores


Fifteen years after collecting it, I still have a bottle of club moss spores somewhere in the house. The yellow powder is strange to say the least. Lean the jar this way or that and the spores move like a liquid. But for more fun you need to take out a pinch and drop it over a flame. Careful, though, since the resulting little wall of flame might burn the hair off your arm (when we were young this happened to a friend--to our delight). Historically club moss spores have been used as a magician's flash powder, for medicinal purposes, and as a coating for pills and tablets, to keep them from sticking to each other. I even read that it was used in some types of explosives at one time, but I haven't been able to verify this.

I have never sold the spores, but have entertained friends with their flammability for years. When I first collected them I found an efficient way to gather the spores quickly. First, I found thick patches covering acres of the forest floor in northern Michigan. It was fall, and the spore heads were still green, with only a few ripened. I cut off broke off the heads and gathered them up in bags, then spread them on opened sheets of newspaper in a warm attic. Several days later the little "cones" had opened up and spilled their contents. All I had to do then was remove the plant parts, lift the paper, and pour the yellow powder into jars.

Lycopodium clavatum is perhaps the best species, but I have since collect spores from other Lycopodium species, and although the plants look very different, the spores themselves seem identical. If you collect enough, you might find buyers for medicinal purposes. I suspect that there is more profit to be made selling the powder in little plastic bags as flash powder.

How Much Can You Make?

At the moment there are suppliers of medicinal products online that sell club moss spores for about $14 per ounce. They probably pay half of that to their suppliers. An alternative is to buy the smallest zip-closed plastic bags you can find (check the craft department at WalMart), and put a spoonful in each one. These should retail for a dollar to those who want flash powder.

This is speculative though, since I have not seen it sold in this way.

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Some online providers of natural medicinal products are also selling the ground-up dried plants, so you might make money collect the whole plant rather than just the spores.

A tea strainer works for cleaning the spores of any bit of leaves.

First Steps

Look at the photos online (see the resources below) to get an idea of what the plant looks like. The various species grow in a variety of environments (I have found them in hardwood stands and coniferous forests). An identification guide showing the primary regions they grow in will help you determine of they might grow near you.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycopodiopsida - A bit of information about the various species.

http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_club_moss.htm - Description of the medicinal uses.

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