Page author: David Giblin
Huperzia continentalis
alpine firmoss

Distribution: In the Olympics and Cascades mountains in Washington; primarily Alaska to Washington, east to Montana; also in Wyoming and Colorado, scattered across northern Canada and on Greenland.

Habitat: Subalpine and alpine meadows, heath, and rocky slopes. Usually at high elevations.

Origin: Native

Growth Duration: Perennial

Conservation Status: Not of concern


Large moss-like plants with erect, mostly unbranched stems from a creeping base; stems 8-11 cm tall.


4-7 mm long, needle-like, whorled, usually shiny yellow-green, spreading to appressed. Lower leaves largest, lanceolate; upper leaves smaller, ovate.


Spores: Spores contained in sporangia, which resemble small tan kidney-shaped pouches distributed along much of stem, one per leaf axil. Also with gemmae (small flattened vegetative propagules) produced throughout mature portion of stem.

Identification Notes:

H. continentalis can be separated from our other two Huperzia species by the shiny yellow-green lanceolate leaves, gemmae produced along much of stem, and the subalpine to alpine habitat.


In Hitchock & Cronquist\\'s Flora of the Pacific Northwest, all 3 of our Huperzia species are treated together under the name Lycopodium selago. See Flora of North America, Vol. 2, for an updated treatment of our species.

Accepted Name:
Huperzia continentalis Testo, A. Haines & A.V. Gilman
Publication: Systematic Botany 41(4):894-901. 2016.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
Huperzia haleakalae (Brack.) Holub, misapplied [FNA2]
Lycopodium selago L., misapplied [HC]
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Huperzia continentalis in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database.

WA Flora Checklist: Huperzia continentalis checklist entry.

OregonFlora: Huperzia continentalis information.

E-Flora BC: Huperzia continentalis atlas page.

CalPhotos: Huperzia continentalis photos.

USDA Plants: Huperzia continentalis information.

2 photographs:
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