The crow’s feet gathering was an annual Christmas tradition throughout Pennsylvania.
At the beginning of each December, usually a Sunday, when the men were not busy hunting deer, families gathered for a hike in the forest, where they plucked long stalks from a commonly evergreen tree. called goose’s foot or terrestrial pine. which would become a Christmas decoration around their doors and windows and in wreaths.
A few notes on this sentence: Until recently, deer hunting in Pennsylvania was almost exclusively a hunt for men. The months of December were generally cooler until the end of the 20th century, before climate change was really felt by the Middle Pennsylvanian. And the environmental impact of removing large amounts of a seemingly inexhaustible plant in its forest floor mat was not a widely known consequence at the time.
Although the lycopod exists as a separate species – Lycopodium digitatum – which is today more commonly known as fan clubmoss, the baskets and bags full of crow’s feet collected for Christmas decor throughout the Pennsylvania may have been one of the dozen species of dogfish that commonly grows or grew in the state.
Other Pennsylvania common names for crow’s feet are trailing pine and running cedar.
Today, two species of mountain lycopod (Huperzia selago) and fir lycopod (Diphasiastum sabinifolium) are officially listed as extirpated from Pennsylvania, while two more – common lycopod (Huperzia prorphila) and foxtail lycopod ( Lycopodiella alopecuroides) – are listed as state- endangered in Pennsylvania.
Other species began to recover after family practice after harvesting dozens of feet from a plant that grew about 1 foot each year – at the time it seemed to be in endless supply – largely became a vestige of past Christmases. But many one-time pickers of the plant have noticed that the prime locations for the activity no longer house evergreen trees. In addition to the indiscriminate harvesting of the plant, the tree canopy of modern Pennsylvania forests is not as welcoming to clubmoss, and the ancient forests that are now homes or commercial developments have very few plants.
Overall, club foam is not as common as it once was statewide.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, clubmoss is an ancient family of plants. “Over 390 million years ago, the ancestors of today’s freeze-dried foam soared to a height of 100 feet. “
Today’s lycopods are low-growing perennial conifers that grow in thick patches of many individual plants connected by horizontal stems that run through leaf litter or under the ground. The roots of the plant are shallow. And the low, erect, branching greens look like tiny conifers or clusters of bird feet.
Like ferns, lycopods are non-flowering vascular plants. They reproduce sexually with spores, not seeds. The spores grow on club-like structures called strobiles.
These spores have a high oil content and when dry they are quite flammable. Known as vegetable powder or witch flour, the powder was used as a flash powder in early photographs, in early fireworks, as a flash powder in the theater, and even as a primer in early muskets.
The first working internal combustion engine, in 1807, was fueled by lycopod powder from these spores to propel a small boat against the current of the Saone in France.
Lycopodium powder has been used as a base for cosmetics, as a coating for pills and suppositories, as a powder for collecting fingerprints, as a stabilizer for ice cream, and as a non-stick coating for latex gloves and condoms.
Clubmoss has also been used medicinally and as a dye, according to an article for the Virginia’s Prince William Wildflower Society by Marion Lobstein, who noted: “Clubmoss spores and teas from the leaves of plants have been used in cultures since ancient times. Native American and European. Medicinal uses included treating urinary tract problems, diarrhea and other digestive tract problems, relieving headaches and skin conditions, and inducing labor during pregnancy. In some cultures, the spores are believed to be aphrodisiacs. The spores are water repellent and have been used as a powder on rashes and even on the buttocks of babies, and to treat sores. Clubmoss spores were once used by pharmacists for coating pills. In the Americas and Europe, clubmoss plants have been used in dyeing fabrics and other items. The plants and / or spores can be used directly or as a mordant (substance to trap other dyes) in the dyeing process.