Sphagnum capillifolium

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Identification notes

Older bryologists may remember the days when S. capillifolium was a broad species concept that included S. rubellum, now a species in its own right. Although there can be a little overlap in identification characters, the two species are normally distinct enough not to be confused with each other.

Until you’ve pressed your hand on a (peat-forming) hummock of S. capillifolium and felt its firm resistance, you may find it difficult to visualise what the books say about its habit. In these hummocks, the individual shoots are pressed tightly together and each convex capitulum (think baseball cap as a mnemonic for capillifolium) resembles a small reddish cauliflower. If in any doubt, check the stem leaves – they are  larger than S. rubellum and a different shape.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

Although a common species of deep peat on blanket bogs and moors in oceanic districts, Sphagnum capillifolium is rare or absent in much of the south where its ecological niche is filled by S. rubellum.

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

Resources you may find useful

There are several publications and keys dedicated to the Sphagna of Britain and Europe. The most recent of these are listed on the Bryophyte identification page under Resources.

Bryophyte identification resources

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