Sphagnum moss, bog-moss, peat-moss
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Sphagnum. Sphagnum moss, bog-moss, or peat-moss is found in swamps or bogs and is one of the plants from which peat is formed; it is much used by gardeners. Its geographical distribution extends to all countries in the North Temperate zone. According to Warnstorf, 1911 (Engler's "Das Pflanzenreich"), there are 342 recognized species of Sphagnum, of which many occur in North America. Sphagnum mosses differ from the true mosses so much that they are usually classified in a distinct family, Sphagnaceae. Besides differences in structure of the reproductive organs, the marked differences lie in the larger growth of sphagnum (which is often a foot or more in height), its soft appearance, pale green color, and the absence of root-hairs. The stems and leaves are inclosed or encircled by one, two, and often four strata of transparent cells connected with each other by small holes, which have the capacity of sucking up and retaining a large amount of water. These cells therefore perform the function of root-hairs, and it is this abundant water-storage tissue that makes sphagnum moss of so much use to gardeners in the cultivation of orchids, anthuriums, and the like, and in fact most plants of an epiphytal or swamp-loving character, such as sarracenia and darlingtonia. Sphagnum often forms at least one-third of the compost in which pitcher-plants and epiphytes are grown. The fresh green tips of sphagnum are also most useful for surfacing pots of orchids and other plants. Besides giving them a better appearance, the moss acts as an index to the moisture condition of the plant. Sphagnum is also useful in the propagation of many stove plants, such as cordyline, nepenthes, and the like; for starting tropical tuberous-rooted plants, such as fancy caladiums; for sowing seeds of orchids, anthuriums, nepenthes, and sarracenias when fresh and chopped fine; as a mulch; as a non-conducting material for plants in pots in exposed positions in summer; and in packing plants for transportation, for which purpose it is an ideal material. Owing to its sponge-like character it may be used wet or dry, according to the character of the plants intended for packing.
Unless one has an ideal position in which to keep sphagnum moss after gathering it from its native place, or unless one has conditions very similar to its native habitat, it is difficult to keep it living for any length of time. This does not greatly matter, except that sphagnum used for surfacing pots should always be living for the sake of appearance. That which is used in potting and propagating need not necessarily be living as long as it is fresh and not decayed, while partially decayed moss may be used for mulching and packing. CH
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- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963