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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Contorted Sphagnum Moss - Sphagnum contortum

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S1

Agency Status


External Links

General Description
Plants: Stems weak to straggling, green, chartreuse or ochre, the capitulum frequently flat-topped with rounded branches (FNA 2007).

Stems and Stem Leaves: Stems light green to pale brown, seldom deep brown. Stem leaves tongue-shaped and sometimes somewhat deltoid, 0.7-1.4 mm in length; border smooth; apex broadly rounded and faintly toothed (FNA 2007).

Branches and Branch Leaves: Branches green, a little rounded and not clearly dimorphic (pendent and spreading branches similar); fascicles consisting of 2-3 spreading and 2-3 (sometimes 4) drooping branches. Branch leaves spreading, 1.2-2 mm in length, egg-shaped or tending toward lance-shaped; somewhat pointed toward one side (subsecund) (FNA 2007).

Stem and Stem Leaf Cells: Outermost stem cortex differentiated from cylinder with 2-3 layers of inflated cells having fine walls. Stem leaf hyaline cells lacking divisions (nonseptate), mostly without fibrils and, when porose, then with the convex leaf surface possessing fewer pores per cell (0-2) than the concave surface (3-6) (FNA 2007).

Branch and Branch Leaf Cells: Branch stem enveloped with 1 layer of enlarged, fine-walled cells lacking ornamentation, and individual retort cells mixed with rectangular cells that lack pores. Branch leaf hyaline cells fibrillose, with many small pores in uninterrupted lines along the margins on the convex leaf surface, with pores few and sporadic to none on the concave surface (FNA 2007); green (chlorophyllous) cells lens-shaped, exposed on the convex leaf surface, barely bounded on the concave leaf surface (Smith 1980).

Species Range

Range Comments
In North America, found in AK, BC, AB, the Pacific Northwest states, CA, CO, and in the northeast from ON to NL, NS, and the northeastern states bounded by MN, WI, and IL; Eurasia (FNA 2007). Known in Montana from Flathead County (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)

Mineral-rich or occasionally weakly alkaline (FNA 2007) wet soil and peat (Elliott 2016); requires unshaded areas. Elevation: low to moderate (FNA 2007).

Reproductive Characteristics
Dioicous. Sporophytes rare. Capsule protruding from perichaetia; pseudostomata sporadic (FNA 2007).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • 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.
  • 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:
Contorted Sphagnum Moss — Sphagnum contortum.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from