Lycopodium, or club moss, is a ground cover found in temperate woodlands worldwide.
Lycopodium powder is made from the spores of club moss, a ground cover. It is a fine pale-yellow powder, odorless and tasteless, that floats on cool water but sinks in boiling water. According to the British Natural History Museum’s website, lycopodium is related to ferns and has a botanical history that can be traced back 380 million years. It grows in temperate grasslands and woodlands in North America, Europe and Asia. Lycopodium powder has a number of commercial uses. Does this Spark an idea?
Lycododium powder is a popular teaching tool for demonstrating dust explosions, according to the TeachersDomain.org website. As a pile of powder, lycopodium is hard to set alight. But when you disperse the powder into the air, lycopodium is easily ignited and burns explosively because the powder particles have a high fat content and large surface area surrounded by oxygen molecules.
The powder’s explosive nature makes it valuable for pyrotechnic uses, said the British Natural History Museum website. It is used for fireworks and for special combustion effects in film and stage presentations. Before flash bulbs were invented, lycopodium powder was sold to photographers as “vegetable sulfur” flash powder to illuminate photo subjects for portraits.
Lycopodium clavatum is used in homeopathic medicine as a remedy for disorders of the urinary and digestive systems and for liver dysfunction. According to the ABCs of Homeopathy website, lycopodium is crushed, boiled and then diluted through tituration and succusion to the tiny strength specified for homeopathic therapy. It is used in pill, pellet and liquid forms.
Because lycopodium powder resists wetting, it is used to powder latex surgical gloves to make them easier to put on, said the British Natural History Museum. It also is used as a pill coating to keep freshly made pills from sticking together, as a cosmetic ingredient to resist perspiration, and as a parting agent in foundry work to prevent metal castings from sticking to molds.
Lycopodium clavatum is becoming an endangered species in many parts of its range, said the British Natural History Museum. Forest harvesting and pasture improvements have been shrinking the club moss’ habitat. Because there are no synthetic substitutes, this moss has also suffered from overharvesting. The sporing bodies have to be picked off to get the powder, denying the moss a chance to reproduce.