When you start working on bogs and wet places you quickly start to love bog mosses or as they are known scientifically, sphagnum. A single stem of sphagnum maybe a slightly uninspiring, soggy, floppy bit of plant material but the plant mass is inspiring, enthralling, useful, fascinating and so much more.
The seal of approval – When restoring bog habitat sphagnum is the be all and end all. It is the seal of approval that we are always looking out for. Because it only grows when the water table is consistently near to the surface then it is the sign that says the habitat is improving and the work we have put in is succeeding. So a carpet of sphagnum is always a good thing to see.
Swallowing trees – we cut down some of the trees on the moss to keep parts of the bog open. The branches are left on the surface to either rot down or get swallowed up by the bog-moss. Once the water table is restored to the surface the bog moss grows as a rapid rate and swallows anything left on the surface. Motivation to not spend too long over lunch!
Makes children gasp – Sphagnum is magic – when you pull out a bunch of sphagnum from the bog, hold it up and squeeze it, the massive amount of water that comes out of these natural sponges seems like magic in school children’s eyes. There is no better way to illustrate the water holding capacity of bog moss to visiting school kids than by doing exactly that.
It is very beautiful– Especially now. In the depths of winter our bogs can become a monochrome landscape. But a look down at your feet and the sphagnum carpet seems to grow in rich hues as the colour drains out of others parts of the moss. And what a range of colours!
Infinite variety – Once you get your eye in there many shapes, sizes, structures and colours. Some form firm brown hummocks, others ditch filling wispy green weed. There can be giant, knee high mounds and smooth rich green carpets. We have at least 15 species across Flanders and Blawhorn with different species on the wetlands on Loch Lomond. Something for everyone!
Bog moss twitching – Most of the species found across Flanders are also found all across the UK but we do have some rarities, Austin’s bog-moss and Rusty bog-moss are a couple of our rares and keeping your eye out for these certainly keeps you on your toes.
Used in war time – in the First World War sphagnum moss was harvested and dried to be made into wound dressings. Its incredibly absorbance and antiseptic properties meant that it was ideal as a field dressing for soldiers on the front line. Let us hope it never has to be used like this again.
A sign of wild land – Sphagnum tells us that the land where it grows is still wet, and therefore hasn’t been drained or agriculturally improved. It is therefore a sign of wild, nature-rich land and an indicator of rewilding. So for me seeing sphagnum is always good – a sign of rich and recovering land and any day that features sphagnum in is usually a good day.