Red Sphagnum Moss

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Moss, Pacific Northwest

Red Sphagnum Moss, BC Coastal Region
Red Sphagnum Moss, Photo By Bud Logan

Sphagnum moss is a green, red or brown moss that can be seen all over the coast. This moss, when it is in a bog may be up to 2 meters thick and could be up to 500 years old at the bottom. I have always enjoyed seeing the Red Sphagnum Moss in the forests of our island, it is such a contrast to the green growth that is everywhere you look.

Sphagnum plays is a big player in the formation of a peat bog because it produces acidic compounds, which bacteria can not grow on. This is important because when bacteria is present, it helps things rot. Therefore, as the sphagnum grows on the top, the lower layers die, but without bacteria, they don’t rot. The nutrients in the dead moss do not break down, instead, the living sphagnum surface gradually builds up on the remains of older generations, gradually creating a carpet of moss that continues to get deeper.

Without bacteria, the moss in the bog is also naturally sterile. In World War I, sphagnum moss was substituted for cotton as a surgical dressing. The acid from the moss also makes it difficult for many other species to grow. look at the forest and you will see that trees with lots of this moss growing on them are struggling to stay healthy.

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