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Montana Field Guides

Wulf's Peatmoss - Sphagnum wulfianum

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S1

Agency Status


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General Description
Plants: Green, a mix of red and brown, or brown (FNA 2007); capitula conspicuous, rounded (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981).

Stems and Stem Leaves: Stems wiry and dark (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981), green to russet. Stem leaves somewhat deltoid and tongue-shaped, apex curved; margins smooth (FNA 2007), although apex may be a little lacerate, the borders not well-defined (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981).

Branches and Branch Leaves: Branch leaves dimorphic, with the spreading branches rigid, the pendent branches thin and fine, the clusters consisting of mostly 3 (as many as 8) spreading branches and 3 (as many as 8) pendent branches. Branch leaves larger than the stem leaves, lance- and somewhat egg-shaped; margins smooth; apex strongly rolled up and inward (FNA 2007), narrow and blunt (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981).

Stems and Stem Leaf Cells: Outermost cortex of 2-4 layers of inflated, short quadrangular cells lacking fibrils and pores (FNA 2007). Hyaline cells of the stem leaves partitioned once, occasionally twice (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981), unevenly 4-sided, reassimilated on the outer leaf surface and the apical area on the inner leaf surface (FNA 2007).

Branch and Branch Leaf Cells: Branch stems have scattered, lone retort cells, porose at their apex (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981) with necks sometimes weakly beak-shaped. Hyaline cells of the branch leaves possessing fibrils and pores, the outer (convex) leaf surface showing 4-6 ringed, egg-shaped pores per cell, the inner (concave) leaf surface displaying 0-4 ringless pores; green cells visible about equally on both leaf surfaces, in X-section appearing elliptical, with indistinct papillae on the inner walls (FNA 2007).

Diagnostic Characteristics
S. wulfianum grows in the driest habitat of any Sphagnum in North America. It is distinctive in the field for being the only species to typically have greater than 6 branches in a cluster as well as branch leaves arranged in 5 vertical rows (FNA 2007).

Species Range

Range Comments
North American Range

Canada: Occurring across the lower tier; USA: in northeastern states, bounded on the south from PA to IL, and on the west by WI and MN (FNA 2007). Known in Montana from Lake and Lincoln Counties (Elliott 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 4

(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 swamps of coniferous woods, sometimes in Alder and Willow carrs (FNA 2007), on wood in late stages of decay (Crum and Anderson et al. 1981). Elevations: low to medium (FNA 2007).

Reproductive Characteristics
Fruit somewhat common. Capsules adorned with several 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.
    • Lawton, E. 1971. Keys for the Identification of the Mosses on the Pacific Northwest. Reprinted from 'Moss Flora of the Pacific Northwest'. Published as Supplement No. 2 of the Journal of the Hattori Botanical Laboratory. Nichinan, Miyazaki, Japan. 66 pp.
    • Lawton, E. 1971. Moss Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Hattori Botanical Laboratory. Japan: Yamabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. 362 pages plus appendices.
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Citation for data on this website:
Wulf's Peatmoss — Sphagnum wulfianum.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from