Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sphagnum Moss from Camosun Bog

All photos copyright Gerry Mignault,  CBRG
The keystone species in Camosun bog is Sphagnum moss, sometimes called peat moss.  Without Sphagnum , the bog would not exist. Sphagnum maintains the wet and acidic conditions favoured by bog plants.  It has the incredible ability to absorb water like a super sponge and it pumps hydrogen ions into its surroundings, thus creating a very acidic environment. 

Sphagnum moss is a Bryophyte, one of the earliest plants to colonize land in evolutionary history. It doesn't have many of the adaptations shared by more recent land plants:   Lacks a cuticle (no shiny waxy protective covering - lip balm for plants!) Has no vascular system, the xylem and phloem (the "arteries and veins" of later land plants - maple syrup is tree "blood" drizzled on our pancakes!).

Sphagnum shares many characteristics with its close relatives, the aquatic plants.  like seaweed, it has swimming sperm. Thus sphagnum requires constant water for sexual reproduction.  Observe Gerry's  photos of Camosun bog's range of Sphagnum moss varieties.
more pictures below

The spherical objects are sporophytes, which emerge out of the archegonium, the female part.  The red tips on the "branches" are likely antheridia, the male gamete producing part of sphagnum moss.  antheridia  are sometimes indicated by a characteristic colour change, as shown above.
bog cranberry growing over light green sphagnum moss
Note baby sundew in the upper left corner

There is very little sphagnum in this shot.  This frog is amongst polytrichum moss, Sphagnum's  main competitor in Camosun bog.  This moss prefers drier, more nutrient-rich conditions.  When Vancouver installed drains, polytrichum outcompeted sphagnum in certain areas.