What is the Difference Between Peat Moss and Sphagnum Moss

The main difference between peat moss and sphagnum moss is that peat moss is formed by the decomposition of sphagnum moss and other organisms over many thousand years, whereas sphagnum moss contains more than 370 species which grow in cool and moist habitats

Peat moss and sphagnum moss are two types of mosses used as soil amendments in gardening. Peat moss is non-living while living sphagnum moss is dried before harvesting.  

Key Areas Covered 

1. What is Peat Moss
     – Definition, Structure, Importance
2. What is Sphagnum Moss
     – Definition, Structure, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Peat Moss and Sphagnum Moss
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Peat Moss and Sphagnum Moss
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Harvesting, Peat Moss, Soil Amendments, Sphagnum Moss, Water Absorption

Difference Between Peat Moss and Sphagnum Moss - Comparison Summary

What is Peat Moss 

Peat moss is a type of non-living material used in gardening to mix with potting mixes and garden beds. Generally, it is formed from the deposits of the sphagnum moss on boggy grounds over many thousand years. Moreover, this moss is important for many reasons. Peat moss generally has an acidic pH. Therefore, it is better for the growth of acid-loving plants, including camellias and azaleas. They can also hold water up to 20 times from their dry weight. Additionally, they can absorb or release some minerals very easily.

Peat Moss vs Sphagnum Moss

Figure 1: Peat Moss

Furthermore, its porous nature allows the penetration of fine roots. However, it lacks weed seeds and pathogens, and hence, is safe to use. Also, peat mosses play a key role in growing mushrooms and plant propagation through air layering methods. 

What is Sphagnum Moss 

Sphagnum moss is a primitive plant that belongs to the genus Sphagnum. Over 370 species of sphagnum moss grow in wet and cool habitats, especially, in lakes or wetlands, which turn into bogs. Generally, these wetlands or bog grounds are fragile habitats that allow the growth of unique types of flora and fauna. Sometimes, the growth of sphagnum mosses can be harmful to these habitats and increases carbon emission. In addition, they grow in both Northern and Southern hemisphere.

Difference Between Peat Moss and Sphagnum Moss

Figure 2: Sphagnum flexuosum

Furthermore, there are two common methods to harvest sphagnum mosses; one is by machinery, and the other is traditional, by hand. But, first of all, it is a must to drain out the water from the lands. Then, due to the drying out, these mosses will die. After that, their surface vegetation can be removed. Once the upper layer is dry, harvesting can be done.  

Similarities Between Peat Moss and Sphagnum Moss 

  • These are two types of mosses used in gardening as soil amendments. 
  • Both are derived from mosses that belong to the genus Sphagnum. 
  • They are non-living at the point of harvesting.
  • Also, they have a low pH, which is helpful for acid-loving plants. 
  • Moreover, they can hold water up to 20 x their weight. 
  • But, they do not contain pathogens or weed seeds. 
  • Furthermore, they are capable of absorbing and releasing some mineral ions. 
  • Besides, they are porous; hence, they allow the penetration of fine roots. 

Difference Between Peat Moss and Sphagnum Moss 

Definition 

Peat moss refers to a large absorbent moss formed by slowly decaying deposits, while sphagnum moss refers to a moss that grows in dense masses on boggy ground. Thus, this is the main difference between peat moss and sphagnum moss.

Significance 

Moreover, peat moss forms from the decomposition of sphagnum moss, while over 370 species of sphagnum moss take part in the formation of peat moss. 

Living States 

Another difference between peat moss and sphagnum moss is that the peat moss is non-living while the sphagnum moss is dried before harvesting. 

Conclusion 

Peat moss is a non-living deposit of the sphagnum moss. Generally, it takes many years to produce it. On the other hand, sphagnum moss mainly grows in cool and moist places on boggy ground. Both types of mosses are important as soil amendments in gardening. Because, they can absorb water, provide acidic pH, and control mineral levels. Moreover, they are clean and do not contain any weed seeds or pathogens. However, the main difference between peat moss and sphagnum moss is their significance. 

References:

1. SHARRONP. “Sphagnum and Peat Moss Are Different.” Sustainable Gardening Australia, Available Here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Schultz Sphagnum Peat Moss” By Ragesoss – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia  
2. “Sphagnum.flexuosum” By James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia   

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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