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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Running-pine - Lycopodium lagopus
Other Names:  Lycopodium clavatum var. lagopus

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2
(see State Rank Reason below)
State Threat Score: No Known Threats
CCVI: Moderately Vulnerable

Agency Status


External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Rare in Montana. Currently known from two occurrences in the northwest portion of the state. Trend data are unavailable. The known sites do not appear likely to be negatively impacted or threatened from human activity at the current time.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Running-pine (Lycopodium lagopus) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 01/09/2013
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    Score3 - Vey Small: Generally <2,000 individuals.

    CommentOne population was observed to only have several dozen plants. The other population was only described as locally common. Additional population information should be collected.

    Range Extent

    Score1 - Peripheral, Disjunct or Sporadic Distribution in MT: Widespread species that is peripheral, disjunct or sporadically distributed within MT such that it occurs in <5% of the state (<7,500 sq. miles or the combined area of Beaverhead and Ravalli Counties) or is restricted to 4-5 sub-basins.

    Area of Occupancy

    Score3 - Very Low: Generally occurring in 3 or fewer Subwatersheds (6th Code HUC’s).

    Environmental Specificity

    Score1-2 - Moderate to High.


    Score0-3 - Population trends are unknown.

    CommentTrend data are unavailable. Habitat is remote and generally not subject to human disturbance but downward trends are possible due to dorought or warming conditions.


    Score0 - Low: Impacts, if any, to the species are expected to be minor or insignificant (affecting <10% of populations) in severity, scope and immediacy.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    Score1-2 - Moderate to High Vulnerability.

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 9 to 14 total points scored out of a possible 19.

General Description
Running-pine is a low evergreen perennial with densely leafy, branched, upright shoots that are 5-8 mm in diameter including the leaves, arising from sparsely leafy, rooted, horizontal stems at the surface. Upright shoots have 2-4 low, ascending vegetative branches and a taller, terminal branch that usually bears a single club-like cone. Appressed to ascending green leaves are crowded on the branches in longitudinal rows of six or more. The leaves are 3-5 mm long by 0.4-0.7 mm wide, with smooth margins and pointed tips ending with hairs. A solitary (rarely 2) terminal cone is borne on an unbranched peduncle , 3.5-12.5 cm long, with sparse appressed leaves. The cone is 20-55 mm long by 3-5 mm long, and is composed of tightly packed sporophylls that are 1.5-2.5 mm long and gradually taper to a a hair tip. Kidney shaped sporangia are borne within at the bases of the sporophylls.

Producing spores in July.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Lycopodium lagopus is most closely related to L. clavatus. Both species have branched upright shoots, hair tipped leaves in rows of 6 or more, and cones on peduncles distinct from leafy branches. The latter differs by having more lateral spreading branches rather than ascending ones, longer, more spreading leaves, and 2-5 cones borne on a loosely branched peduncle. A hand lens may be needed for positive identification.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
One collection in Glacier National Park; circumboreal, BC, MB, MI, and NY (Lesica et al. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 4

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Turf along drainages and moist slopes in alpine zone.
Predicted Suitable Habitat Model

This species has a Predicted Suitable Habitat Model available.

To learn how these Models were created see

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species

Threats or Limiting Factors
Threat impact not assigned because threats are not known (MTNHP Threat Assessment 2021).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
    • Lesica, P., P. Husby, and S. V. Cooper. 1998. Noteworthy collections: Montana. Madrono 45:328-330.
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Citation for data on this website:
Running-pine — Lycopodium lagopus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from