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Common Brophyte and Lichen Species of the Northwest Forest

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FERNS & FERN ALLIES

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Sphagnum magellanicum
Midway Peat Moss
Sphagnaceae

Sphagnum magellanicum Description

General - medium-sized to large, reddish to reddish purple, sometimes light green when growing in shade; branches in clusters of 4 - 6, with 2 - 3 spreading away from the rest.

Leaves - stem leaves broadly tongue-shaped, tip fringed, slightly toothed on sides; branch leaves lie flat to somewhat spreading, broadly egg-shaped, toothed at tip.

Sporophytes - single; stalk short; capsule dark brown, spherical, erect, smooth.

Habitat

In open, relatively acidic habitats; especially noticeable on tops and sides of large hummocks in older, drier, more acidic parts of bogs, but also found in pioneering sites in wetter, more mineral-rich habitats; distribution closely parallels that of black spruce in Northwestern Ontario's boreal region; on all continents except Antarctica.

Notes

Non-red specimens of midway peat moss are very similar to S. centrale, and a microscope is needed to distinguish them. S. centrale also tends to occur in somewhat more mineral-rich sites. Many peat mosses grow in very specific habitats. A sequence of species from poor fen peat moss in the hollows, to midway peat moss at mid-hummock (hence the common name), to rusty peat moss on the hummock top is commonly found throughout our region. In horticulture, peat moss is added to mineral fertilizers as a filler or conditioner. It is also used as a potting medium for seedlings and cuttings and is added to soil as a source of organic material. When properly treated, peat soils are among the best agricultural soils. The species name magellanicum refers to the Strait of Magellan region at the southern tip of South America, where this peat moss was first identified.


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