Herbs & Plants

Sphagnum Moss

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Botanical Name : Sphagnum cymbifolium
Family: Sphagnaceae
Genus: Sphagnum
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Bryophyta
Class: Sphagnopsida
Subclass: Sphagnidae
Order: Sphagnales

Synonym: Bog Moss.

Common Names ;Sphagnum Moss

Habitat :
Sphagnum Moss  is found in wet and boggy spots, preferably on peat soil, mostly near heather, on all our mountains and moors, in patches small or large, usually in water free from lime, growing so close together that it often forms large cushions or clumps. It is seldom found in woods; it grows best on heath moors, in water holes.

Sphagnum Moss is the only true Moss that has yet proved itself to be of appreciable economic value.

Sphagnum is easily distinguished from other mosses by its habit ofgrowth, its soft thick fullness (each head resembling a full and elaborate bloom of edelweiss), and its vividly pale-green colour.

Its stem is densely beset with narrow, broken-up leaves, a branch being emitted at every fourth leaf; many of these are turned downwards and applied more or less closely to the stem.
Though the pale-green species is the most common, there are several others, large and small, varying in colour from the very light green (never dark green) to yellow, and all shades of pink to deep red and brown. The Moss often attracts attention by its display of beautiful shades of colour, such patches being avoided by wary persons, who do not wish to get their feet wet.

Every part of the moss is permeated with minute tubes and spaces, resulting in a system of delicate capillary tubes, having the effect of a very fine sponge. The cells readily absorb water and retain it. The water can be squeezed out, but the Moss does not collapse and is ready to take in fluid again.

The plant is not dependent on soil water, but also absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, and is laden throughout with water retained in its delicate cells.

The presence of these capillary cells makes Sphagnum economically useful. In horticulture, long before the war, this Moss had a marketable value, in combination with peat fibre, being widely used as a rooting medium for orchids, on account of the remarkable manner in which it retains moisture, a handful when wet being like a sponge, and when chopped and mixed with soil in pots preventing moisture passing too quickly through the soil.

Medicinal Uses:
Preparations of calcined peat have long been regarded as effective and cheap germicides, and as a valuable aid to sanitation; peat water possesses astringent and antiseptic properties, and the air in proximity to tracts of peat moss is invariably salubrious, owing probably to the absorption of hydrogen and the exhalation of oxygen by the mosses. Sphagnol, a distillate of Peat Tar, is authoritatively recognized as an extremely usefulapplication in eczema, psoriasis, pruritus, haemorrhoids, chilblains, scabies, acne and other forms of skin diseases, while it is very beneficial for allaying irritation arising from insect bites. For the latter purpose it is a preventative no less than a cure.

Other Uses:
Decayed, dried sphagnum moss has the name of peat or peat moss. This is used as a soil conditioner which increases the soil’s capacity to hold water and nutrients by increasing capillary forces and cation exchange capacity. This is often necessary when dealing with very sandy soil, or plants that need increased or steady moisture content to flourish. A distinction is sometimes made between sphagnum moss, the live moss growing on top of a peat bog, and ‘sphagnum peat moss’ (North American usage) or ‘sphagnum peat’ (British usage), the latter being the slowly decaying matter underneath.[18]

Dried sphagnum moss is also used in northern Arctic regions as an insulating material.

Anaerobic acidic sphagnum bogs have low rates of decay, and hence preserve plant fragments and pollen to allow reconstruction of past environments. They even preserve human bodies for millennia; examples of these preserved specimens are Tollund Man, Haraldskær Woman, Clonycavan Man and Lindow Man. Such bogs can also preserve human hair and clothing, one of the most noteworthy examples being Egtved Girl, Denmark. Because of the acidity of peat, however, bones are dissolved rather than preserved. These bogs have also been used to preserve food. Up to 2000-year-old containers of butter or lard have been found.

Sphagnum moss has also been used for centuries as a dressing for wounds, including through World War I. Since it is absorptive and extremely acidic, it inhibits growth of bacteria and fungi, so it is used for shipping seeds and live plants. However, see Health dangers below.

Peat moss is used to dispose of the clarified liquid output (effluent) from septic tanks in areas that lack the proper conditions for ordinary disposal means. It is also used as an environmentally friendly alternative to chlorine in swimming pool sanitation. The moss inhibits the growth of microbes and reduces the need for chlorine in swimming pools.

In New Zealand, both the species S. cristatum and S. subnitens are harvested by hand and exported worldwide for use as hanging basket liners, as a growing medium for young orchids, and mixed with other potting mixes to enhance their moisture retaining value.

Peat moss is a critical element for growing mushrooms. The fungal mycelium grows in compost with a layer of peat moss on top, through which the mushrooms come out, a process called casing.

Peat moss, dead or alive, is also a very important soil and topper for most carnivorous plants.

In the 7th Framework Programme Mossclone peat mosses multiplied in moss bioreactors are developed as a new tool to monitor air pollution.

The manufacture of spinning material out of peat-fibre has been attempted in Sweden, and experiments have advanced so far that cloth as well as clothing has been made out of peat fibre mixed with other textile materials. This does not, however, appear likely to lead to any important industry, but absorptive material has been produced from white Sphagnum Moss and Wood Pulp. It has also lately been reported from Sweden that successful attempts have been made to extract alcohol from Sphagnum.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.