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Peat Moss
Sphagnum L. (Sphagnaceae)
General description:
Sphagnum is a genus of moss. It includes from 135 to more than 300 species, depending on the how the genus is delimited. Sphagnum occurs throughout the world, but is particularly abundant in the sub-Arctic and in mountainous regions. Sphagnum is the dominant plant in many bog habitats.

As with other mosses, Sphagnum does not produce flowers or seeds, but spreads by spores. The most apparent part of the moss is the gametophyte, a life stage which has only a single set of chromosomes. The gametophyte bears the smaller sporophyte, which has two sets of chromosomes and produces the spores.

Sphagnum produces clusters of branches along stem, giving it a fluffy appearance. These branches are especially crowded together at the tip of the stem.

The leaves of Sphagnum consist of two types of cells. One cell type is living at maturity and contains the chlorophyll used in photosynthesis. The other cells are referred to as hyaline cells. Hyaline cells die quickly, but the dead cells can hold a large quantity of water (as much as 25 times the dry weight of the plant). The water holding capacity of the hyaline cells allows Sphagnum to better survive a drought, and to spread from the margins of wet areas into drier habitats.
History, uses and importance:
Sphagnum is of great ecological importance in many habitats. The water holding capacity of Sphagnum helps regulate runoff during the spring melt in the Arctic.

The water retention of Sphagnum has led to various uses by humans. In gardening and agriculture, sphagnum is used as a soil conditioner, to improve water retention of soils. Sphagnum has also been used in diapers and as an absorbent dressing for wounds. Dried Sphagnum has been used as a stuffing in mattresses and pillows, and as bedding for animals.

Sphagnum is a major contributor to the formation of peat, partially decayed organic matter that accumulates in certain wetlands (peat bogs) and has long been used as a fuel source. The smoke from peat fueled fires contributes to the flavor of Scotch and Irish whiskies. More recently, peat has been used as an element in constructions materials. Organic material in peat bogs decays very slowly; peat bogs are notable in archeology for preserving wooden artifacts, as well as human bodies.
Comprehensive museum links:
Artefacts Canada, Sphagnum moss
Artefacts Canada, sphagnum
Artefacts Canada, peat
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Taxonomic Search, Search in Genus Sphagnum
The British Museum, Sphagnum Moss
The British Museum, peat
The British Museum, peat moss
The Chicago Field Museum, Botany Department, Search Sphagnum
The Chicago Field Museum, Economic Botany, Search Sphagnum
The Chicago Field Museum, Bryophytes, Search Sphagnum
The Chicago Field Museum, Botany Detailed Search, Search Sphagnum
The Chicago Field Museum, Andean Flowering Plants, Search Sphagnum
The Chicago Field Museum, vTypes Collection Database, Search Sphagnum in ?Genus?
Rijksmuseum, Rijksstudio, Sphagnum (Trans: Microscope image of an antheridium of peat moss, F. Monpillard, c. 1889 - in or before 1899)
Rijksmuseum, Rijksstudio, Peat
Victoria and Albert Museum, peat
Victoria and Albert Museum, peat
History museum links:
Minnesota Historical Society, sphagnum
Art museum links:
British Council: Visual Arts, peat
The Broad, Peat
The FIGGE Art Museum, peat
Goldstein Museum of Design, peat
Images D?art database: http://art.rmngp.fr/en, Peat moss
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Peat
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Peat Bog
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Peat cutter
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Peat
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Peat Moss
Rochester Art Center, Ireland Exhibit
Tate, UK, Peat
UK National Portrait Gallery, Sphagnum moss/peat, Fig. 042087 KEL ? GA, Serfachius Oy?s Workers Loukkuso peat bog. One Woman 1943/2015. M?ntt? Finland from the series Ten People in a Suitcase by Trish Morrissey, 2015
Library links:
Missouri Botanical Garden Biocultural Collections Search, Sphagnum
Missouri Botanical Garden Peter H. Raven Library, Sphagnum
Missouri Botanical Garden Peter H. Raven Library, Peat
New Orleans Public Library, partners with NATFAB, Sphagnum
New Orleans Public Library, partners with NATFAB, Peat
Skala Bartizal Library: NCSML (National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library, Peat
UC San Diego, Peat
UC San Diego, Sphagnum
 
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