Harvesting Club Moss Spores
By Steve Gillman
Fifteen years after collecting it, I still have a bottle of
club moss spores somewhere in the house. The yellow powder is
strange to say the least. Lean the jar this way or that and the
spores move like a liquid. But for more fun you need to take
out a pinch and drop it over a flame. Careful, though, since
the resulting little wall of flame might burn the hair off your
arm (when we were young this happened to a friend--to our delight).
Historically club moss spores have been used as a magician's
flash powder, for medicinal purposes, and as a coating for pills
and tablets, to keep them from sticking to each other. I even
read that it was used in some types of explosives at one time,
but I haven't been able to verify this.
I have never sold the spores, but have entertained friends
with their flammability for years. When I first collected them
I found an efficient way to gather the spores quickly. First,
I found thick patches covering acres of the forest floor in northern
Michigan. It was fall, and the spore heads were still green,
with only a few ripened. I cut off broke off the heads and gathered
them up in bags, then spread them on opened sheets of newspaper
in a warm attic. Several days later the little "cones"
had opened up and spilled their contents. All I had to do then
was remove the plant parts, lift the paper, and pour the yellow
powder into jars.
Lycopodium clavatum is perhaps the best species, but I have
since collect spores from other Lycopodium species, and although
the plants look very different, the spores themselves seem identical.
If you collect enough, you might find buyers for medicinal purposes.
I suspect that there is more profit to be made selling the powder
in little plastic bags as flash powder.
How Much Can You Make?
At the moment there are suppliers of medicinal products online
that sell club moss spores for about $14 per ounce. They probably
pay half of that to their suppliers. An alternative is to buy
the smallest zip-closed plastic bags you can find (check the
craft department at WalMart), and put a spoonful in each one.
These should retail for a dollar to those who want flash powder.
This is speculative though, since I have not seen it sold
in this way.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Some online providers of natural medicinal products are also
selling the ground-up dried plants, so you might make money collect
the whole plant rather than just the spores.
A tea strainer works for cleaning the spores of any bit of
Look at the photos online (see the resources below) to get
an idea of what the plant looks like. The various species grow
in a variety of environments (I have found them in hardwood stands
and coniferous forests). An identification guide showing the
primary regions they grow in will help you determine of they
might grow near you.
- A bit of information about the various species.
- Description of the medicinal uses.