General: Low, perennial, moss-like plants with creeping to tufted stems bearing scattered, mostly unbranched roots.
Leaves: Spirally arranged or 4-ranked, small, simple, lanceolate to linear or scalelike, each with a single vascular trace.
Spores: Spores contained in sporangia, which resemble small, tan, kidney-shaped pouches, either 1 sporangium per leaf axil or the sporangia in the axils of modified leaves (sporophylls), these aggregated into terminal cone-like structures. Huperzia species also reproduce by gemmae (small flattened vegetative propagules) in 1 or several pseudowhorls near branch tips or along length of branches.
Identification Tips: See also Selaginellaceae. Most Selaginellaceae species in North America have quadrangular spore cones with the sporophylls in 4 rows (in Lycopodiaceae the spore cones are terete with the sporophylls spirally arranged, or the sporangia are interspersed among normal leaves). Selaginella selaginoides, with spirally arranged sporophylls, differs from Lycopodiaceae by its softly spinulose-dentate leaf margins and dimorphic spores.
Comments: Lycophytes represent the oldest extant lineage of vascular plants, with members dating back at least 390 million years. Although often grouped with ferns, they represent an indepentent group no more closely related to ferns than are other extant vascular plants. Lycopodiaceae is sometimes split into two families, Huperziaceae (containing Huperzia s.l.) and Lycopodiaceae (remaining genera).