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CULT:Sphagnum Peat Moss

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: CULT:Sphagnum Peat Moss
  • From: Chris Hollinshead <cris@netcom.ca>
  • Date: Mon, 29 Sep 1997 21:21:20 -0600 (MDT)

Henryanner@aol.com wrote:

> I really don't understand the difference between spagnum and regular peat and
> I hope someone can explain.

Chris H. replies:

Please find below an article that I ran in the April 1995 issue of the Canadian
iris Society Newsletter. While it may not answer all questions it does give some
insight into the product.
I believe it was originally written a few years ago when there was some negative
publicity circulating regarding the safety of using Sphagnum Peat Moss.  Hope it

Don't confuse Sphagnum Moss with Peat Moss
By Gerry Hood
President of Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association

 You may have read about a fungal disease called Cutaneous Sporotrichosis, a
chronic infection identified by skin lesions. The fungus which causes this
disease has been found in several kinds of organic material and because in
extremely rare cases this can cause death, gardeners are rightfully concerned
about protecting themselves from contracting it. Unfortunately, however, some of
the information circulating about how gardeners can contract this disease has
been inaccurate. It confuses two separate products; one of which is known to
carry the fungus and one of which does not.
 One of the materials known to carry the sporotrichosis fungus is sphagnum moss.
Most frequently used by the floral industry to line wire baskets, this product
frequently being confused with sphagnum peat moss, a soil conditioner known for
its ability to bind sandy soils, loosen clay soils and retain water. The
difference is an important one. While there have been cases of sporotrichosis
resulting from handling sphagnum moss, I'm aware of no cases as a result of
handling sphagnum peat moss. Sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss are not the
same product, as many avid gardeners know.
 Sphagnum moss is the living moss that grows on top of a sphagnum bog. The fungus
sporotrichum schenckii is known to live in this growing moss.
 Sphagnum peat moss is the dead material that accumulates as new live material
grows on top and exerts pressure on the peat moss below. The fungus is not known
to live in the levels of a sphagnum bog where peat forms. Harvesters of
horticultural peat moss remove the top few inches of the live sphagnum moss and
only harvest the peat from the lower layer.
 Living sphagnum moss is used in the floral industry to make wreaths and to line
hanging baskets. Workers in that industry have been warned to protect themselves
with gloves and heavy clothing to avoid puncture wounds or scrapes. Gardeners
wishing to create their own baskets or for other uses should simply follow the
same advice: Wear gloves and long sleeves to prevent coming into contact with the
dried moss. No similar warning appears on Material Safety Data Sheets for
handling sphagnum peat moss.
 Gardeners world-wide use sphagnum peat moss as a soil amendment because its
unique cell structure enables peat to: Aerate plant roots by loosening heavy clay
soils, add body to sandy soil and save water by absorbing and holding moisture.
 Peat moss is not only effective, it's organic and safe to use.

Christopher Hollinshead
Mississauga, Ontario  Canada  zone6b
AIS(Region 16), CIS, SSI
Director-Canadian Iris Society
Newsletter Editor-Canadian Iris Society
e-mail:  cris@netcom.ca
CIS website:  http://www.netcom.ca/~cris/CIS.html

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