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Montana Field Guides

A Peatmoss - Sphagnum russowii

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status


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General Description
Plants: Rigid and generally distant, more compact when growing in open areas, green or a mix of green and red, the capitulum level on top and frequently radiate (FNA 2007).

Stems and Stem Leaves: Stems usually a combination of red and green. Stem leaves tongue-shaped, 1.3-1.6 mm in length; border distinct and much wider at the base (FNA 2007); apex widely curved or broadly pointed, the mid portion a little ragged in appearance (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981), occasionally toothed (FNA 2007).

Branches and Branch Leaves: Branch stems green, long and slim, the branch clusters (fascicles) consisting of 1-2 of the drooping and 2 of the spreading branches. Branch leaves lance- and somewhat egg-shaped, cupped, straight, 1.3-1.6 mm in length (comparable in size to stem leaves); apex rolled upward and inward; margins smooth (FNA 2007).

Stem and Stem Leaf Cells: Outermost cortical cells of the stem usually quadrangular and with 1 round pore in the apical part of the cell, sometimes cells of entire stems (FNA 2007) or just some scattered cells may lack pores (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981). Stem leaf hyaline cells S- to diamond-shaped, typically lacking fibrils, partitioned 1(2) times or not at all, usually mostly reassimilated on the inner leaf surface and little on the outer surface (FNA 2007).

Branch and Branch Leaf Cells: Branch stem encompassed by 1 tier of swollen, fine-walled hyaline cells which lack fibrils, with some individual and/or some small clusters of retort cells, each sporting 1 pore. Hyaline cells of the branch leaves lacking fibrils, with pores abundant on the convex (outer) leaf surface along the cell margins that are juxtaposed to green cells, grading from tiny round pores in the distal portion of the leaves to bigger elliptic pores proximally, the concave (inner) leaf surface often displaying big round pores all over or sometimes just near the leaf base; green cells in X-section trigonal to unevenly 4-sided, more area visible on the inner than on the outer leaf surface, the end walls relatively thin (FNA 2007).

Capsules ripen the last part of spring into the first part of summer (FNA 2007).

Species Range

Range Comments
North American Range

Canada: Present in all provinces and territories; USA: most northeastern states s to NC and TN, w to MO, IA, and MN, and in the western states of WA, OR, CA, ID, MT, WY, UT AND CO (FNA 2007). Known in Montana from Beaverhead, Carbon, Cascade, Fergus, Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Jefferson, Lincoln, Meagher, Missoula, Park, and Ravalli Counties (Elliott 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 55

(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)

Wet soil and peat (Elliott 2016) on bog edges, poor and rich fens in exposed areas, in wet evergreen woods (FNA 2007), developing cushions on top of hillocks of acidic bogs, on rocks where water seeps (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981), minerotrophic, able to withstand shade (FNA 2007).

Reproductive Characteristics
Mostly dioicous, but occasionally some plants seemingly monoicous (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
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    • Elliot, J. C. 1993. Second checklist of Montana mosses. Unpublished report. U.S. Forest Service, Region 1. Missoula, MT. 45 pp.
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Citation for data on this website:
A Peatmoss — Sphagnum russowii.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from