Sphagnum tenellum

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Identification notes

This is a very obliging Sphagnum as it has a really useful and reliable identification feature that means it rarely needs to be examined microscopically.

First, though, find your plant. Most authorities currently place S. tenellum in Section Cuspidata, which includes many other species with mustard colours. Montane plants are most likely to be quite richly coloured. In the lowlands, however, S. tenellum is often a rather drab shade of pale green and does not stand out. It is often found in the same habitats as S. compactum and in the lowlands at least is regarded as an indicator of wet or humid heath vegetation communities.

Look for a small, delicate Sphagnum with small concave leaves (making the plants looked beaded) and undifferentiated spreading and pendent branches. At the tips of some branches the two small uppermost leaves diverge widely, giving them a ‘birds beak’ or ‘crab’s claw’ appearance that none of our other species has.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

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