Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum Moss, Vancouver Island, BC
Sphagnum Moss, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Sphagnum moss grows profusely all over the BC coastal region. These moss accumulations have the ability to store up to 25 times their dried weight in water since both living and dead plants can hold large quantities of water inside their cells, the empty cells help retain water in drier conditions.

So as this moss grows, it can slowly spread to form larger areas of thick moss. These moss accumulations can then provide habitat for a wide array of other plants. Individual moss plants consist of the main stem, with tightly arranged clusters of branch fascicles usually consisting of two or three spreading branches and two to four hanging branches.

The top of the plant has compact clusters of young branches. Along the stem are scattered leaves of various shapes that are called stem leaves and the shape varies according to species. As with many other mosses, the sphagnum moss species disperse spores through the wind. The tops of spore capsules are only about 1 cm above ground, and where the wind is weak. As the spherical spore capsule dries, the operculum is forced off, followed by a cloud of spores.

Some of the world’s largest wetlands are sphagnum bogs, including the West Siberian Lowland, the Hudson Bay Lowland, and the Mackenzie River Valley. These wetlands provide homes for many other types of plants and animals, they also store large amounts of carbon, which helps reduce global warming.

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