Members of the moss genus Sphagnum grow in wet areas and are typically the dominant plants growing in bogs. They can be recognized by their distinctive growth form, which includes a head or capitulum of multiple branches at the apex. The branches that grow on the mid and lower portion of the stem are grouped into fascicles or bundles. Within these groups are branches that are pendant and others that are perpendicular to the stem. When examining the leaves with a hand lens it can be seen that they are curved at the apex into a scoop shape. Determining the species of Sphagnum can be notoriously difficult. It requires dissection of the plant to make a leaf cross section and a compound microscope. However once you have seen peat moss in the wild they are pretty unforgettable and the genus is easily recognized.
Sphagnum is the most economically important group of mosses and has a number of unique features with associated fun facts. Tune in Friday for the continuation of our journey into the world of the peat moss.