Difference Between Sphagnum and Peat Moss

Sphagnum vs Peat Moss

Mosses are a botanical division which is commonly referred to as Division Bryophyta. Bryophytes include most primitive plant species that typically grows up to 10 cm tall. These tiny plants do not have flowers and seeds. Their stem is covered with simple leaves. There are about 14,500 species of bryophytes found in the world. Since, mosses are very primitive plants, they always prefer habitats which contain abundant moisture and shade. Sphagnum is a bryophyte genus which is widely distributed and includes more than 300 species.


Sphagnum mosses are coarse-textured mosses that form flat colonies in freshwater bogs. They are slow-growing plants that form a layer of fresh green growth each year in fresh water habitats. The old sphagnum gets darker and decomposes as peat mosses at the bottom of bogs. Sphagnums are important for the bogs to thrive.

Sphagnums are used in the floral industry as a decorative plant. When handling sphagnum, it is recommended to use gloves as they contain some fungal spores, which can cause health issues associated with finger nails.

Sphagnum Moss

Source: James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster


Peat Moss

Peat moss or sphagnum peat moss is the dead form of sphagnum moss. Once sphagnum mosses are dead, they decompose at the bottom of the bog as peat mosses. Peat mosses are widely used as a soil amendment because they retain a large amount of water and are a much finer-grade potting material. Unlike in live sphagnum, fungal spores are rarely found in peat moss. In certain countries, some convenient harvesting methods are used to take peat moss from the bottom of the bog without disturbing the live sphagnum layer at the top of the bog.

What is the difference between Sphagnum and Peat Moss?

• Sphagnum mosses are green in color, whereas peat mosses are dark brown in color.

• Sphagnums are found at the top of the bog while peat mosses are found at the bottom of the bog.

• Dead sphagnum moss decomposes and forms peat moss.

• Sphagnum is the living form, whereas pear moss is the dead form.

• Sphagnums are used in the floral industry, whereas peat mosses are used as a soil conditioning substance.

• Sphagnum contains fungal spores, which cause health problems, whereas peat mosses do not contain such fungal spores.


You may also be interested in reading:

1. Difference Between Lichen and Moss

2. Difference Between Moss and Algae

3. Differences Between Bryophytes and Ferns