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Common Brophyte and Lichen Species of the Northwest Forest

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Sphagnum girgensohnii
Girgensohn's Peat Moss
"White-toothed Peat Moss"

Sphagnaceae

Sphagnum girgensohnii Description

General - medium-sized, green, robust, forms loose mats; head (capitulum) star- shaped, flat-topped; stems with many pitted cells in outer colourless, transparent layer; 1 young handing branch.

Leaves - stem leaves broadly tongue-shaped, torn along edge across flat top; branch leaves similar to those of acute-leaved peat moss.

Habitat

Species of woodlands, and bog and fen edges across Northwestern Ontaio's boreal forest; more common to north where it often forms low hummocks in shrubby tundra; circumpolar.

Notes

Girgensohn's peat moss is distinguished by large, yet slender, flat-topped, green plants with stem leaves that look like they were cut with pinking shears. A similar species, fringed bog moss (S. fimbriatum) has stem leaves that are torn all around the edges. Acute-leaved peat moss, Warnstorf's peat moss, and wide-tongued peat moss differ from acute-leaved peat moss in that they all have some red colour. Alaskan native peoples mixed peat moss with grease to make a salve for treating cuts. Peat moss that had been burned to ashes or powder was used as a germicide in the early 1900's. Peat water was said to be astringent and antiseptic and event the air near peatlands was considered extremely healthful. Peat moss helps to prevent infection and it has often been used as an absorbent dressing for wounds. during World War I, peat moss was widely used for surgical dressings, freeing cotton for the manufacture of gunpowder. It was collected, picked clean, dried, and lightly packed in muslin bags. These were then sterilized and placed on wounds as dressings. Peat moss dressing could absorb more than 3 - 4 times as much moisture as cotton dressings. It also retains liquids much better, reducing the number of times the dressing must be changed, and distributes liquids more uniformly throughout the dressing. Peat moss dressings are cooler, softer and less irritating than dressings stuffed with cotton, and they can be produced more quickly and cheaply in emergencies. Sphagnol, an extract produced by distilling the tar from peat, was used to soothe and heal haemorrhoids, chilblains, and skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.


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