Selaginella arbuscula

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Lelelepeamoa
  • Lepelepe a moa

Hawaiian Names

  • Lelelepeamoa
  • Lepelepe a moa

Common Names

  • Branched spikemoss
  • Dwarf spikemoss


  • Lycopodium arbuscula
  • Lycopodium arbusculum
  • Lycopodium menziesii
  • Lycopodium pennigerum
  • Selaginella bishopiana
  • Selaginella browneana
  • Selaginella flabellata
  • Selaginella jonesii
  • Selaginella menziesii
  • Selaginella parvula
  • Selaginella springii

Did You Know…?

The Hawaiian name of this spikemoss is Lepelepe a moa, which means "comb like that of a chicken." The plants do indeed have some resemblance to a chicken's comb.

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Spreading

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Fern/Fern-like, Short, Less than 1
  • Fern/Fern-like, Medium, 1 to 3

Mature Size, Width

Lelelepe a moa can spread to 4 more feet per plant but often grow together forming a loose to dense mat of green.

Life Span

No data available.

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover
  • Hanging Basket

Additional Landscape Use Information

This beautiful and unique "fern-like" plant is a wonderful addition for shaded areas in moderately to very wet landscapes.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Additional Plant Texture Information

The flat to firm leaves spread laterally.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

leaf Growth Requirements

Pruning Information

Dead material may be removed for a cleaner appearance.

Water Requirements

  • Moist
  • Wet

Light Conditions

  • Shade

Additional Lighting Information

Lelelepe a moa does best in shaded or bright locations.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, Greater than 100 (Wet)


  • Epiphyte
  • Lithophyte
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Lelelepe a moa (Selaginella arbuscula) is commonly found in shaded soil, rocks (a lithophyte), and cliffs in mesic to wet areas from over 325 to about 3935 feet on all the main islands except Niʻihau and Kahoʻolawe.

Once thought to be an endemic Hawaiian species, Selaginella arbuscula has a greater distribution, occurring in the Society Islands, Ualan, Santa Cruz Island (Vanikoro), and the Marquesas Islands (Nuku Hiva, Ua Huka, Ua Pou, Hiva ʻOa, Tahuata, and Fatu Hiva). [3]

Selaginella arbuscula rarely grows as an epiphyte. [1]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The genus Selaginella belongs to the Spikemoss family (Selaginellaceae)--a family of over 500, perhaps up to 700, species worldwide. There is one endemic species in the Hawaiian Islands, Selaginella delfexa, found on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi Island. [3]

Additionally, three other species are not native and have become naturalized with two of them localized in the ʻAkaka Falls State Park on Hawaiʻi Island.


The generic name Selaginella is from the Latin selago, an ancient name for some species of Lycopodium, or club mosses.

The specific epithet arbuscula is from the Latin meaning "diminutive tree," alluding to the plant resembling a small tree or bush.

Hawaiian Name:

Lepelepe a moa means "comb like that of a chicken." The plants do indeed have some resemblance to a chicken's comb.

Background Information

Lelelepe a moa is very easy to grow and readily spreads to new areas by gently rubbing the leaves over a planting area. The fallen material will form roots if kept moist. [Aileen Yeh, Aileen Yeh Nursery]

A popular spikemoss relative, mostly regarded as a novelty, is the Rose of Jericho or Resurrection plant (Selaginella lepidophylla). A native of the Chihuahuan Desert (Mexico, USA), this amazing plant can survive extremely dry conditions by shriveling to a ball of what appears to be dead brown plant material. Water revives, or resurrects, the plant once again to lush greenery. An amazing design for survival in a harsh environment! A video of this plant can be viewed at the Wikipedia site for this species. [2]

Modern Use

Lelelepe a moa are used with roses in lei work. [1]

Additional References

[1] "Ferns of Hawaiʻi" by Kathy Valier, page 22.

[2] [Accessed on 4/8/11]

[3] "Current Status of Ferns and Lycophytes" by Amanda L. Vernon & Tom A. Ranker, page 90.

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