The peat mosses – Sphagnum – are the largest genus of mosses in the Northern forest. In wetlands and wet woods, where they control water chemistry
and dominate carbon storage, they are by far the most important. We have a core of about 30 broadly accepted species, plus 10 others that we argue about.
Of the core, 20 can be identified in the field.
The trick to identification is to cycle between structure and ecology. The overall appearance – color, size, and growth form – tells you the most likely groups.
The water source, height above water table, and amount of sun tells you the most likely species in these groups. Tiny details such as leaf shape, branching
patterns, and the change from wet to dry confirm the species.
[ PHOTOGRAPHER’S NOTEBOOK ]
22 Northern Woodlands / Autumn 2017
quiquefarium fallax group capillifolium group
WET MIXED FOREST
palustre girgensohnii pylaesii