Sphagnum Moss Vs. Sphagnum Peat Moss: Are Sphagnum Moss And Peat Moss The Same

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

In one form or another, most plant owners have dealt will sphagnum moss at some point. In spring, when it’s time to plant the garden, bales or bags of sphagnum peat moss fly off the shelves of garden center. This popular soil amendment is lightweight and inexpensive. However, when perusing a craft store, you may see small bags labeled sphagnum moss selling for just as much, or more, than you paid for a compressed bag of sphagnum peat moss. This major price and quantity difference may have you wondering are sphagnum moss and peat moss the same. Continue reading to learn the difference between sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat.

Are Sphagnum Moss and Peat Moss the Same?

The products known as sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss come from the same plant, which is also known as sphagnum moss. There are over 350 species of sphagnum moss, but most of the varieties harvested for sphagnum moss products grow in wetlands of the northern hemisphere – mainly Canada, Michigan, Ireland and Scotland. Commercial sphagnum peat moss is also harvested in New Zealand and Peru. These varieties grow in bogs, which are sometimes drained to make harvesting the sphagnum peat moss (sometimes called peat moss) easier.

So what is sphagnum peat moss? It is actually the dead, decayed plant matter of sphagnum moss that settles at the bottom of the sphagnum bogs. Many of the sphagnum bogs that are harvested for commercially sold sphagnum peat moss have built up in the bottom of bogs for thousands of years. Because these are natural bogs, the decayed matter known as peat moss is usually not purely sphagnum moss. It may contain organic matter from other plants, animals or insects. However, peat moss or sphagnum peat moss is dead and decayed when harvested.

Is sphagnum moss peat moss? Well, kind of. Sphagnum moss is the living plant that grows on top of the bog. It is harvested while it is alive and then dried for commercial use. Usually, the living sphagnum moss is harvested, then the bog is drained and the dead/decayed peat moss beneath is harvested.

Sphagnum Moss vs. Sphagnum Peat Moss

Sphagnum peat moss is usually dried and sterilized after harvest. It is a light brown color and has a fine, dry texture. Sphagnum peat moss is usually sold in compressed bales or bags. It is a very popular soil amendment because of its ability to help sandy soil hold moisture, and helps clay soil loosen up and drain better. Because it has a naturally low pH of about 4.0, it is also an excellent soil amendment for acid-loving plants or highly alkaline areas. Peat moss is also lightweight, easy to work with and inexpensive.

Sphagnum moss is sold in craft stores or garden centers. For plants, it is used to line baskets and help retain soil moisture. It is usually sold in its natural stringy texture, but is also sold chopped up. It consists of shades of green, gray or brown. In crafts it is used for a variety projects that require a natural flair. Sphagnum moss is sold commercially in smaller bags.

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