I usually see these pop up around August in north New Jersey along a hiking trail. The picture doesn't do the color justice. They have a very vibrant color that makes them stand out.

Until I examined them closely they always just looked very much like bright green ball shaped plants as I'm running along the trail. Every fall they pop up and I've been curious as to what they are.

enter image description here

  • Are those tiny yellowish flowers, or the remains of flowers, or just bits in the pile, that I'm seeing in the pic? This looks like ground cover, but you describe 'balls', so how tall does it get? Are the leaves stiff and prickly, or soft?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 12:24
  • @Bamboo I think they're just some sort of debris. I don't remember seeing any flowers. They're only about 1-3" tall from what I remember. I only get to see them in the fall. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 15:42
  • @OrganicLawnDIY: i'm not so sure, I'm fairly convinced I can see stem running back from what was once a flower, into the plant. Be good if you could check next time you're there, and also touch it to see what it feels like.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 17:46
  • @Bamboo looking at the picture closer it may be part of the plant but I'm not sure they're flowers. The more pictures I see of Polytrichaceae the more convinced I am that's what they are. In a month or two they should be all around the wooded trail in large clusters. I'll try to get a better photo and closer look. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 18:47

2 Answers 2


It looks just like common haircap moss, Polytrichum commune. Of course, because I don't know where you are located, this may not be correct. It is very bright green, as you've described.

From Wikipedia:

It is widely distributed throughout temperate and boreal latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere

Below is a comparison pic:

enter image description here


Looks like some species of Lycopodium.

From Wikipedia:

Lycopodium (from Greek lukos, wolf and podion, diminutive of pous, foot) is a genus of clubmosses, also known as ground pines or creeping cedar, in the family Lycopodiaceae, a family of fern-allies (see Pteridophyta). They are flowerless, vascular, terrestrial or epiphytic plants, with widely branched, erect, prostrate or creeping stems, with small, simple, needle-like or scale-like leaves that cover the stem and branches thickly. The leaves contain a single, unbranched vascular strand and are microphylls by definition. The kidney-shaped or reniform spore-cases (sporangia) contain spores of one kind only (isosporous, homosporous) and are borne on the upper surface of the leaf blade of specialized leaves (sporophylls) arranged in a cone-like strobilus at the end of upright stems. The club-shaped appearance of these fertile stems gives the clubmosses their common name.

  • 1
    This answer led me to this photo, which looks similar to what I saw. Comments suggests it is Polytrichastrum formosum (a type of moss) not Lycopodium. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 1:06
  • 'This answer led me to this photo...' which tells me that Lycopodium helped to find the proper identification. Lycopodium picture was kinda close...
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 1:18

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