Sphagnum skyense

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Identification notes

S. skyense was discovered, new to science, on the Isle of Skye by a visiting student from Norway in 1987. It remains endemic to Britain and Ireland but since then, it has been found more widely, in areas of high precipitation in the hilly north and west.

In the field, it is a strikingly large and handsome species, with a big shaggy capitulum and strongly developed red pigments. It looks a little like an overfed S. subnitens, which is hardly surprising when you consider that has some DNA from that species (its other parent is unconfirmed but may be S. quinquefarium or S. warnstorfii).

Dryish plants in the field have a little of the metallic sheen that is also seen in S. subnitens. S. skyense is a rare species and identification should always be confirmed microscopically. However, other useful field pointers include a pale red stem and many fascicles with four branches – two spreading and two pendent. S. subnitens nearly always has three branches per fascicle and only one is pendent).

Under the microscope, the stem leaves resemble those of S. subnitens in shape. However, the upper hyalocysts of that species are conspicuously septate (divided by partitions) and often multiple times. Septae are much less frequent in S. skyense and where they do occur the hyalocysts are usually only divided once.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

Resources you may find useful

Flatberg, K.I. 1988. Sphagnum skyense sp. nov. Journal of Bryology 15: 101-107

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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