Common Sphagnum peatmosses of south Mississippi

I got a request for resources to identify Sphagnum peatmosses in the field. What could be easier? Practically anything, turns out, because all the key identification characters for Sphagnum are microscopic. iNaturalist, unfortunately, is no help as its Computer Vision has not yet trained on Sphagnum, and it has a tendency to suggest everything is Crome Sphagnum and Prairie Peatmoss when they emphatically are not.

But, we aim to please, so here is a bare-bones draft resource to get started. I took 10 of the most common Sphagnum species in south Mississippi (should work nearby as well), divided them into groups based on how branch leaves look (with a hand lens), and provided links to more information and a photo for each. The photos, at bryophyteportal.org, also have the species description from Flora of North America -- I suggest you skip to the last paragraph for hints to identify each species in the field.

Here are the suggestions, and I'll revise over time to improve it. Good luck!

Branch leaves are hood-shaped and big enough to be individually counted rather easily (subgenus Sphagnum):

Sphagnum perichaetiale (no common name), dryer microhabitats, teddy bear look
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+perichaetiale

Sphagnum affine (imbricate bog-moss), dryish to wet but not inundated, often open
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+affine

Sphagnum portoricense (Puerto Rico sphagnum), wet, shady, “little palm trees”
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+portoricense

Sphagnum magellanicum (Magellan’s peatmoss), pitcherplant bogs, often purple
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+magellanicum

Sphagnum palustre (prairie peatmoss), shady wet seeps
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+palustre

Branch leaves are very long (over 5mm) and straight-tipped

Sphagnum macrophyllum (largeleaf peatmoss), wet and often inundated
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+macrophyllum

Branch leaves small and not easily counted

Sphagnum lescurii (yellow peatmoss), wet to dry habitats, soft and shapeless
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+lescurii

Sphagnum carolinianum (Carolina peatmoss), wet woods, bright green & a little spiky looking
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+carolinianum

Sphagnum cuspidatum (toothed peatmoss), inundated, “drowned kitten” look
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+cuspidatum

Sphagnum recurvum (recurved sphagnum), wet, dainty looking
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+recurvum

You can find lots of examples of each of these in my project "Peatmosses (Sphagnum) of the SE US" (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/peat-mosses-sphagnum-of-the-se-us)

Posted on March 07, 2022 05:19 PM by janetwright janetwright

Comments

Wow!

Posted by sedgequeen over 2 years ago

Awesome, thanks!

Posted by misspt over 2 years ago

Good stuff!

Posted by jakelly over 2 years ago

Very cool!!!

Posted by dcarrie over 2 years ago

such an awesome endeavor!! I have tried to find resources (a person) for moss ID for years.

Posted by rjwhitfield over 2 years ago

The only moss I know anything about is Sphagnum. But I will be taking a moss course this summer so will be glad to share what (if) I learn!

Posted by janetwright over 2 years ago

Very generous of you to share your expertise! Thanks!

Posted by kmiller03 over 2 years ago

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