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Montana Field Guides

Spreadleaf Peatmoss - Sphagnum squarrosum
Other Names:  A Spagnum Moss

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status


External Links

General Description
Plants: Growing generally as open carpets, sturdy and rigid, green, pale green, chartreuse, the capitulum conspicuous with a big terminal bud (FNA 2007).

Stems and Stem Leaves: Stems green to russet. Stem leaves smaller than the branch leaves, tongue-shaped and somewhat oblong or a combination of egg- and tongue-shaped, 1.6-1.8 mm in length, 1-1.2 mm in width with a wide, short-fringed apex (FNA 2007), mostly plane (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981); borders indistinguishable or none (FNA 2007).

Branches and Branch Leaves: Branch stems green, long and narrowing, dimorphic, with the pendent branches slimmer than the spreading ones, but similar in length. Branch leaves 1.9-2.8 mm in length, longer than the stem leaves, with an egg- to arrow-shaped base, narrowing suddenly 1/2 to 2/3 the length of the leaf from the base into a cupped acumen with smooth, strongly inrolled margins (tundra forms may be circular in X-section); acumen strongly squarrose (spreading at a 90 degree angle from the stem) (FNA 2007).

Stem and Stem Leaf Cells: Outermost cortex consisting of 2-3 cell layers, the cells rectangular, swollen, fine-walled, and lacking pores and fibrils. Stem leaf cells diamond-shaped, seldom partitioned, lacking fibrils and pores, with resorption fissures on the outer leaf surface (FNA 2007).

Branch and Branch Leaf Cells: Cortex of branch stem enveloped by 1-2 tiers of swollen, fine-walled cells which lack fibrils, some of the cells retort-shaped and each with a distal pore and indistinguishable neck. Hyaline cells of the branch leaves fibrillose, and porose at the cell ends and angles, with 4-8 ringed pores per cell on the inner (concave) leaf surface, and 2-4 ringless pores per cell on the outer (convex) leaf surface; green cells ovate or trigonal in X-section, more widely visible at or near the outer leaf surface (FNA 2007).

Fruit ripens from the first through the middle part of summer (FNA 2007).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Although the squarrose branch leaves are usually distinguishable in this species, the smaller high-mountain plants may require attention to cellular features for identification (FNA 2007).

Range Comments
North American Range

Canada: Present in all territories and provinces; USA: in most northern states, and CA, AZ, TN and NC (FNA 2007). Known in Montana from Flathead, Glacier, Lincoln, Missoula, Park, Ravalli, Sanders, Stillwater, and Sweet Grass Counties (Elliott 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 50

(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 humus (Elliott 2016) in fertile habitats such as along stream edges, moist evergreen forests, bogs and fens that have become somewhat shrubby (FNA 2007).

Reproductive Characteristics
Monoicous. Fruiting prolifically (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.
    • Smith, A.J.E. 1980. The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 705 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.
  • Web Search Engines for Articles on "Spreadleaf Peatmoss"
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Citation for data on this website:
Spreadleaf Peatmoss — Sphagnum squarrosum.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from