sphagnum mosses

(Sphagnum spp.)

sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)
Photo by Luciearl

Sphagnum moss, also called peat moss, is one of the major components of peat. It has a worldwide distribution, occurring on every continent except Antarctica. In Minnesota it occurs in the northern and eastern two-thirds of the state west of the Prairie Parkland and from the Metro Region north. It grows in peat bogs, swamps, wet depressions in woodlands, and other wet habitats. It colonizes and often dominates nutrient-poor areas where other plants can’t survive.

There are about 380 species of sphagnum moss worldwide, more than 100 species in North America north of Mexico, and at least 27 species in Minnesota.


Sphagnum moss has a main stem with branches in tight bundles (fascicles) of 3 or more. The fascicles are arranged spirally arranged around the stem, and usually have both spreading and hanging branches. The stem and branches are covered with unlobed, photosynthesizing leaves. The leaves are also arranged spirally around the stem or branch. There is usually a tuft (capitulum) of young branches at the tip of the stem. The lower part of the plant is dead and decomposing.

Identification of many species requires a stereo microscope. Many species can be identified in the field, but this often requires close examination with a hand lens with 20X magnification.


Distribution Map



4, 7, 24, 29, 30.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Bryophyta (mosses)  
  Subdivision Sphagnophytina  
  Class Sphagnopsida  
  Subclass Sphagnidae  




Sphagnaceae (sphagnum moss)  

Subordinate Taxa


brown peatmoss (Sphagnum fuscum)

central peatmoss (Sphagnum centrale)

chrome peatmoss (Sphagnum squarrosum)

fen peatmoss (Sphagnum warnstorfii)

fringed bogmoss (Sphagnum fimbriatum)

Girgensohn’s peatmoss (Sphagnum girgensohnii)

greater peatmoss (Sphagnum majus)

Magellan’s peatmoss (Sphagnum magellanicum)

narrowleaf peatmoss (Sphagnum angustifolium)

northern peatmoss (Sphagnum capillifolium)

orange peatmoss (Sphagnum subsecundum)

papillose peatmoss (Sphagnum papillosum)

red peatmoss (Sphagnum rubellum)

rigid bogmoss (Sphagnum teres)

Russow’s peatmoss (Sphagnum russowii)

Wulf’s peatmoss (Sphagnum wulfianum)






Common Names


peat moss

sphagnum moss












On ferns: The central axis of a pinna, to which pinnules are attached. On mosses: the central axis (midvein) of a leaf. On insects: The leading edge of the forewing.



A small bundle or cluster, often sheathed at the base, as with pine needles.





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    sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)   sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)  
    sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)   sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)  
    sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)      
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    sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)   sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)  






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Other Videos
  Sphagnum Moss

Published on Oct 13, 2012

How to grow SPHAGNUM MOSS! Sphagnum moss holds up to 20 times its own weight in water and is ESSENTIAL for many soil mixes intended to hold lots of moisture! In this video you'll learn how to grow your own.

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  Boreal Forest Part 2 Sphagnum Moss

Published on Aug 5, 2013

Identifying Sphagnum Moss and some video of the Spruce Moose Forest of Western Alberta Canada.




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Location: Cass County

sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)  

Location: Lake Shore, MN, Cass County

sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)  
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