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Montana Field Guides

A Peatmoss - Sphagnum teres

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status


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General Description
Plants: Growing in open to crowded carpets, slim to medium-sized, light green to lemonish, russet in sun-exposed plants (FNA 2007), the terminal bud large in the capitulum (Smith 1980).

Stems and Stem Leaves: Stems light green to russet. Stem leaves flat, broad above and narrower below (spatulate) to somewhat tongue-shaped, 1.3-1.8 mm in length, 0.8-1 mm in width; apex wide and lacerate; border none or faint (FNA 2007).

Branches and Branch Leaves: Branches green, long, dimorphic, the hanging branches similar in length to but much more slender than the spreading branches, the clusters each with 4 or 5 branches, 2 of those hanging. Branch leaves egg-shaped or tending toward lance-shaped, tapering slowly to a strongly inrolled end, 1-1.4 mm in length (typically smaller than the stem leaves); apex and margins smooth; shaded plants nearly circular in X-section (terete) or occasionally with leaves 90 degrees to the stem (squarrose) (FNA 2007).

Stem Branch and Stem Leaf Cells: Outermost stem cortex consisting of 3-4 layers of swollen, fine-walled, quadrangular cells lacking fibrils and pores (FNA 2007), although occasionally with one thin pore-like area (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981). Hyaline cells of the stem leaves diamond-shaped, not partitioned, lacking fibrils and pores, showing reassimilation fissures on the outer leaf surface (FNA 2007).

Branch and Branch Leaf Cells: Branch stem cortex enclosed with 1 layer of swollen, fine-walled cells lacking fibrils, a few cells with a distal pore. Hyaline cells of the branch leaves fibrillose, a little swollen and with 4-8 big pores per cell on the outer leaf surface (FNA 2007), these cells almost as wide as the cell itself (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981), and 1-4 irregularly-shaped pores per cell on the inner leaf surface; papillae occasionally on the inner hyaline cell walls adjacent to the green cells; green cells in X-section somewhat deltoid (FNA 2007) to trapezoidal, more visible at the outer leaf surface than at the inner surface (Smith 1980).

Fruit ripening in the last part of spring to the first part of summer (FNA 2007).

Diagnostic Characteristics
The shaded squarrose forms of S. teres as well as its terete forms are mostly much smaller than the characteristically large, squarrose form of S. squarrosum found in the tundra. However, microscopic details may be required to distinguish smaller upper-montane forms of S. squarrosum from squarrose plants of S. teres (FNA 2007).

Species Range

Range Comments
North American Range

Canada: Present in all territories and provinces except NB and PE; USA: in most northern states, CA and CO (FNA 2007). Known in Montana from Beaverhead, Carbon, Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Lincoln, Missoula, Park, and Stillwater Counties (Elliott 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 51

(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) in exposed medium fens, rich mires (from slightly acidic to a little basic); very minerotrophic (FNA 2007), in mats of cattails and sedges, and in bog mats (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981). Elevations: low to high (FNA 2007).

Reproductive Characteristics
Dioicous. Fruiting infrequently (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.
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Citation for data on this website:
A Peatmoss — Sphagnum teres.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from