Appalachia Christmas

Running Cedar

Running cedar

A few weeks ago Blind Pig reader Carol Stuart mentioned using running cedar as Christmas greenery when she lived in West Virginia. I was glad Carol mentioned running cedar-because I often overlook what’s right under my nose.

Running pine


Running cedar is also called running pine, Christmas green, creeping pine, ground pine and ground cedar. The ground hugging plant grows near our house. It’s been creeping down Granny and Pap’s bank for the last 40 years till it’s almost reached the bottom. The Latin name of the plant is Lycopodium digitatum. You can see from the photo-it grows along a small running vine which makes the plant perfect for draping or circling Christmas decorations.

Greenery for christmas


The pretty evergreen really doesn’t need any further decoration-it already has the look of Christmas about it-making it easy to see why some folks call it Christmas green.

Using greenery from your yard for christmas


But I thought I’d give a technique B.Ruth described recently in a comment a try. I placed a small amount of flour-barely a tablespoon-and a sprinkling of glitter into a plastic bag. I wet a piece of running cedar lightly, placed it in the bag, and while holding the top closed tightly, I shook the bag around a few times.

You can see from the photo how the dusting of white shows the delicate details of the plant and gives it a snowy look. I read ground cedar was endangered in some areas of the country. But it seems to be thriving here in Western NC.


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  • Reply
    June 1, 2018 at 1:24 am

    I remember as a teenager gathering it for the church at Christmas to put in the window sills for decoration

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    December 16, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Ground cedar grows on my Great Grandparents grave. I have always imagined it getting it’s start through a wreath gathered from the woods and placed there long ago.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 14, 2013 at 1:38 am

    That’s what I saw for sale at the Food Lion tonight. I wondered what that was. It was kinda droopy, so I gave them little drinks of water from my water bottle. I may pick some up to plant in our yard now that I know what it is, that it grows well in NC and that it’s endangered in some areas.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 13, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Oh Wow, oh mercy, I swoon, I think I need a tonic, I am fallin’ out of my rollator and I don’t have the “clapper” to alert 911..!!
    Thanks Tipper…

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    and Jackie….”SPOT”, how on earth could I have put Spot in the back of my mind that far…We had a Cocker Spaniel back in those days, his name was “Blackie”…He was all black, no white spots…figure!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…I admit I had to cheat, it was bothering me real bad, so I researched my Look and See book and there he was…wonderful memories…See Spot run! See, see, see! Look at Spot! LOL

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 12, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Tell Cindy to tell the other story of the gathering of the small cedar for her Christmas tree, the one about her Mothers good friend! I have a feeling it was/is a gooden!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Don Whuan
    December 12, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    B. Ruth, your words are more beautiful than any of the pictures or descriptions I have yet seen. I live for your daily comments! But for them I would have long since departed this earthly realm. I have yet to behold your countenance but I think I have seen your soul and a lovelier sight hath never before presented itself to me. That Roy feller might ought consider a strongbox to lock away his treasures lest another steal them all away.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Tipper, This is for B, Ruth. I remember Dick and Jane but not the cat. My first reader was Jerry and Alice and their dog Jip.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    We have what I think is some of that growing here in Caldwell County. It seems to like very little if any sun. It is so pretty, but it is ussy where it grows. That was a neat idea; I wondered if it still lives with that on top of it.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I am sorry for all my long comments and taking up space again!
    BUT, I just had to get in here and comment after going back and looking at Don’s pictures…
    Don, your work is beautiful! The arrangements I love, you did mighty fine! I don’t know if it is just my feeling or knowing, but I feel like the arrangement is more than an “”artsy florist” could put together.
    It says to me something of the love of God, the mountains, the woods and woodland and the love of nature that you show in your arrangements!
    Thanks For Sharing…Don!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Tamela’s inquiry about transplanting running Cedar got me interested! Our Ground Pine, which is like the posts picture of running Cedar, is known by many names, in different parts of the country. Ours grew under a canopy of large Loblolly Pines…Of course it was acid loam under those pines..
    Not on a steep grade, but I am sure it was moist under the deep layer of pine needles. Almost like walking on top of a mattress!
    I miss those pines, but the beatles were spreading and hope the cutting of ours helped someones trees! The new patch is under a canopy on a slight grade.
    I have transplanted, the Crested Dwarf Iris and it spreads by running rhizomes. It likes open slopes, so I planted mine, on the driveway bank, slight hill whre it gets filtered sunlight. The ground Pine would, I think grow better under a canopy on a slight slope!
    I may try it myownself come Spring.
    Thanks Tipper and Tamela,
    PS…That is if I can bring my self to pull up a few feet of the running rhizomes…like corn, I should have the pot boiling or plot space ready and place right in to make it think it has not been moved.
    Also, Jim is right, I think it is move prevalent in NC and parts of SC that our area here in East Tennessee!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I don’t know much about Ceder, but
    I’m sure there’s a plenty around.
    And it makes a pretty Christmas
    Decoration, especially when it’s
    rolled in a touch of flour. I’m a
    nut for Snow, so anything White is
    a favorite for this time of year.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Jim mentioned it was on an endagered species list…It was according to a Dr. gooroo Ecology
    friend of ours, at least here in Tennessee for a while, I run anything (Mother Nature) by him, when in doubt find out!! We discussed this ground cedar, pine, many years ago. My Dad had told me about it, but I had never seen it until we moved here to our little mountain (hill) and woods. I just love learning new stuff…I have found out since turning old age, that you can never have enough stuff packed in your head…sort of like my art closets!
    When our large stand of pine had to be cut by the loggers a few years ago, (pine beatles) our Ground pine, Running cedar, running pine, ground cedar, etc. etc was lost. I actually cried, when I was out there searching for it and couldn’t find it! (Believe it or not!) The canopy of pines that it survived under was now gone and the sun shone like a demon where the trees and ground pine grew!
    My husband finally found some on the North side of our woods to our complete happiness! I will not touch it. Any of the mosses, will take a long time to recover. Raindeer, etc. if taken in large quanities.
    It is not a pine, ground cedar etc. it is in the family of club mosses…go figure!
    My Father said they used it for wreaths and decorations in their home in Mars Hill as well as my Mothers family used it along with the other winter Christmasy greens in Marshall.
    It grows and runs on rhizomes and is perfect to pull up and wrap around things for decoration. But, I could never bring myself to pull up that much..
    I have seen the upright pine looking type, but we do not have it here on our place.
    I sure wish I could tromp around in the woods like I used to…If you can walk, go for one! Even if you are citified…It is one of lifes pleasures to walk in the woods and mountains…God gave us all types of Christmas decor and winter greenery…but you have to “look and see”!
    Does anyone remember the First Grade Book from the fourties and fifties…”LOOK AND SEE” with Dick and Jane and Puff the cat, since I am a cat person, I can’t remember the dogs name, but it will come to me later.
    Thanks Tipper,
    Loved this post…
    PS…Break you some pieces of, what I call, fence line Cedar and wet it and shake in flour and glitter…Love it…olde timey! I love the smell of Cedar!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I did a little reading about this plant and discovered that its dried spores, among other uses, was the flash powder that photographers used to put in their flash pans. Magicians also used it to make thing “go up in a flash.” Apparently it burns very rapidly. You better be careful with fire this year. Wouldn’t want you to blow up your decorations!

  • Reply
    December 12, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Tamela-I’ve never tried to transplant it. Hopefully someone that has will chime in with an answer for you : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    December 12, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Very pretty – and a neat tip for many types of greenery. Thanks. – – Now – – I wonder if I could coax some of that “running cedar” to grow in the some of the darker understory here in our usually dry climate. . . .? Maybe near a secluded seep or a damp draw . . . . Does it root easily?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Tipper–I had never heard it called anything but running cedar until B. Ruth, who seems to know a little bit of everything, described it as ground pine. I’m probably the one who said it was endangered, since I saw it on some kind of endangered list in the past. In truth, it’s common as pig tracks, and not only in the high country. On some land Ann and I own where I deer hunt, here in the piedmont region of South Carolina, there are two sprawling patches of it.
    I wonder if it was ever gathered, like galax, moss, balsam, and she-holly, for sale to city folks?
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    james gentry
    December 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Running Cedar is alive and doing well here on John’s Mountain in Gordon County. Many of the hiking trails I travel have large colonies. Never thought about harvesting it for Christmas decoration, but it makes sense. I have American Holly with luscious red berries on display now. This will work perfectly with it.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2013 at 9:32 am

    We gathered it when I was a child. Called it “creepin’ cedar.” We put it all over.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2013 at 8:45 am

    What a great idea, can’t wait to try it!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 12, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Thanks, Tipper, for the “tip” (please, no pun meant!) about how to give Ground Cedar a glitter and touch-of-snow appearance. So easy! I don’t have it readily available here in Milledgeville, but in my growing-up days in Choestoe and also at our home in Epworth, GA (near Blue Ridge and not so far from the TN/NC border) we had “running” or “ground” cedar in abundance. As all of you decorate, remember we’re preparing to celebrate the greatest birthday every known!

  • Reply
    Lynda Randolph
    December 12, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Thank you for this Blog. I enjoy your articles because it reminds me of growing up in Western NC. I love this running cedar but I don’t remember seeing it before. I will look for it.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 12, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I don’t know that I have ever seen running cedar to know what it was. I need to look for it. Looks like a handy decorative resource.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Tipper, I’ve seen that growing and never given it a thought. It is very pretty as is most things growing in the woods. I never considered that it could be related to the great Cedar Trees….I am assuming from the name that they are related.
    Our beautiful Appalachian Mountains are a wonderland at any time of the year but I guess we have to wait till the cold of winter has to remove the outer layers of foliage for us to notice the subtle little things on the ground near the earth.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 12, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Well, Tipper, you may have given me a wonderful ‘notion’ – if I can just find some running cedar. I can imagine it as a ‘nest’ for my little Christmas decoration in a fancy BIG vase. Thanks for a bright note on a frosty December morning!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 12, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I have something less than zero artistic skill, but try to make a Christmas wreath on the frame of a cross every year using common materials collected from woods and fields – representative of common folks that Christ came to save.
    Ground cedar is a part of that, as are other natives – broom sage, holly, sumac, hemlock, ferns, goldenrod and pine (cones) as well as some non-natives including southern magnolia, privet and nandinas, all from some old home sites.
    Here are a couple of examples:

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 12, 2013 at 7:49 am

    I thought I saw a running cedar here the other day but I can’t be sure. It might have been a deer. Next time I see it I’ll try to hem it up.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 12, 2013 at 7:43 am

    It is beautiful

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 12, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Very pretty! I’ve seen that growing in a lot of places. We have holly trees in our yard, That reminds me that I need to go out and do a little trimming so my neighbor and I can use it for decorating.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    December 12, 2013 at 6:04 am

    I didn’t know its name when I recently saw some running cedar. Now I have to try to remember where I came upon it. It would make a pretty wreath wound around a straw form. A good friend of my mother always went up the mountain behind her homeplace and cut a small cedar for her Christmas tree, but that’s another story.

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