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Montana Field Guides

Red Spoon Peatmoss - Sphagnum magellanicum
Other Names:  Magellan's Peatmoss

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S1

Agency Status


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General Description
Plants: Forming lawns in areas protected from the sun and high, thick hillocks in open areas; stem leaves of shaded plants a little distant, in open forms crowded and stiff; color varying from green or green tinged with pink to red with purple tones (FNA 2007).

Stems and Stem Leaves: Stems green to reddish. Stem leaves seldom similar to the branch leaves, somewhat tongue-shaped with an obtuse, rounded apex, the edge fringed, the outer surface frequently reassimilated and eroded away, to 2 mm in length, and to 0.7 mm in width (FNA 2007).

Branches and Branch Leaves: Branch stems green, the branches short to long and narrowing, dimorphic, the fascicles consisting of 2-3 pendent and 2-3 spreading branches. Branch leaves overlapping lightly, widely ovate, to 2 mm in length, and 1 mm or more in width (FNA 2007).

Stem and Stem Leaf Cells: Stem hyaline cells swollen and thin-walled, in 3-4 layers, the spiraling fibrils that strengthen the outermost layer of cortical cells distinct, the inner cell walls lacking comb fibrils, each cell with 1 or 2 pores (FNA 2007).

Branch and Branch Leaf Cells: Branch stem cortical cells frequently possessing large round pores on the outermost walls, lacking ornamentation; retort cells not present. Branch leaf hyaline cells lacking ornamentation, the cell faces on the convex leaf surface showing oval to round pores at the margins contiguous to the green cells; green (chlorophyllous) cells in X-section lens-shaped, not exposed on either the upper or lower surface (FNA 2007).

Capsules ripen in midsummer (FNA 2007).

Diagnostic Characteristics
S. magellanicum is the only reddish-purple boreal species. The green cells of the branch leaves in X-section are totally enclosed in S. magellanicum. In the similar S. centrale, the green cells have thickened ends, thus exposing them slightly, particularly on the concave surface of the leaf (FNA 2007).

Species Range

Range Comments
North American Range

Canada: Known in all provinces and territories except NU; USA: along the entire east coast, w to TX, AR, IL, WI and MN, also in the PNW states, CA, and MT (FNA 2007). In Montana: Beaverhead, Flathead, Glacier, Lincoln, and Missoula Counties (Elliott 2016).

Prevalent and extensive.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 14

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

From low- to high-nutrient fens and peatlands, exposed and wooded bogs (FNA 2007), frequently in the areas of higher acidity in the bogs (in older and drier edges and on tops of hillocks), seeping mountain inclines, pocosins (Crum and Anderson 1981). Elevations: low to high (FNA 2007).

Reproductive Characteristics
Dioicous. Capsules arrayed with many pseudostomata (FNA 2007).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Crum, H.A. and L.E. Anderson. 1981. Mosses of Eastern North America. 2 volumes. Columbia University Press, New York. 1328 pp.
    • Elliott, J.C. and A.K. Pipp. 2018. A Checklist of Montana Mosses (1880-2018). Updated 3 January, 2020. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 73 pp.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 2007. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 27. Bryophytes: Mosses, Part 1. Oxford University Press, Inc., NY. xxi + 713 pp.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Elliot, J. C. 1993. Second checklist of Montana mosses. Unpublished report. U.S. Forest Service, Region 1. Missoula, MT. 45 pp.
    • Smith, A.J.E. 1980. The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 705 pp.
  • Web Search Engines for Articles on "Red Spoon Peatmoss"
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Citation for data on this website:
Red Spoon Peatmoss — Sphagnum magellanicum.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from