Sphagnum moss Sphagnum

Sphagnum mosses are the amazingly multi-coloured living carpets of moss found in wet places like peat bogs, marshland, heath and moorland. There are at least ten species of Sphagnum moss in the UK, which are very difficult to tell apart. These species range in colour from red and pink, to orange and green. Sphagnum moss plants are very small, but they grow together in close proximity forming spongy carpets; ‘hummocks’ are even created when the mosses grow together to form large mounds up to a metre high.

Behaviour

When seen up close, they are very beautiful, but they also play a very important role in the creation of peat bogs: they hold water in their spongy forms long after the surrounding soil has dried out. In this way, they provide essential nutrients to the soil and help to prevent the decay of dead plant material which gets compressed over hundreds of years to form peat.

Size

  • Height: approximately 5cm for an individual plant, but hummocks can be as tall as 1m

Status

Common.

Distribution

Widespread.

When to see

January – December

Facts

  • Sphagnum mosses can soak up more than eight times their own weight in water.
  • Sphagnum mosses were used as wound dressings during the First World War when there was a shortage of cotton bandages. Its natural absorbency and antiseptic qualities made it an ideal alternative for treating wounded soldiers.

Common name

Sphagnum moss

Species name

Sphagnum

IUCN Red List status

N/a

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Possil Marsh or Red Moss of Balerno

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