Sphagnum cuspidatum (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
Introduction
List of species


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Sphagnum cuspidatum Ehrh. ex Hoffm.


Protologue: Deutschl. Fl. 2: 22 (1796).
Family: Sphagnaceae
Chromosome number: n = 19 + 2

Synonyms

  • Sphagnum gabonense Warnst. (1911).

Vernacular names

  • Feathery bog-moss, toothed sphagnum (En).
  • Sphaigne (Fr).

Origin and geographic distribution

Sphagnum cuspidatum occurs on all continents. In Africa it is recorded from Gabon, Congo, DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Madagascar.

Uses

In Gabon Sphagnum cuspidatum moss is collected and used to fill cushions and mattresses. Sphagnum mosses, including Sphagnum cuspidatum, are used widely in the floral industry for wreaths or to line hanging baskets. Because of its peculiar leaf structure, which enables the plant to absorb and store water many times its own weight, Sphagnum is often used in potting new plants. Mixed with partially decomposed organic matter, it is a good germinating medium for seeds. Sphagnum is occasionally used in boxing fragile commodities. It has been used as antiseptic wound dressing to stop bleeding.

In temperate countries, Sphagnum bogs have been exploited as a source of peat for fuel. For this purpose, the dead, partially decomposed material accumulating in the lower levels in the peat bog is used. Sphagnum peat is also widely used by gardeners for soil amendment.

Production and international trade

Sphagnum is traded in temperate regions and on a small scale in the tropics, e.g. in South-East Asia; trade in tropical Africa is probably insignificant.

Properties

In tests Sphagnum extracts showed antibiotic activity against gram-positive bacteria.

Botany

Dioecious, slender and weak-stemmed moss, moderate-sized, growing in greenish tussocks, feather-like in submerged plants; stem with a cortex of 2–3 cell layers, clearly differentiated from the greenish central cylinder; branches in fascicles of 3–5(–6). Stem leaves triangular, 1–1.5(–2) mm × 0.5–1 mm, acute to rounded at apex; branch leaves narrowly ovate-lanceolate, 1.5–4 mm × c. 0.5 mm, often slightly toothed and inrolled near apex. Leaf cells in a single layer, consisting of 3 main types: elongated border cells, narrow living green cells and inflated dead hyaline cells; in branch leaves green cells in section triangular or trapezoid and exposed on dorsal surface, hyaline cells with wall fibrils and up to 10 pores. Capsule globose, borne on top of a transparent stalk, containing numerous yellowish brown spores.

Sphagnum species generally grow slowly. Growth may be slightly over 5 cm/year, but it is much less at higher altitudes. Ripe capsules shrink in dry weather to build up internal pressure, blowing off the lid and ejecting the spores, but this mechanism frequently does not work, and then the lid merely falls off or the capsule disintegrates.

Sphagnum is a genus of at least several hundreds of species; it has a worldwide distribution. In Africa about 30 species occur.

Ecology

Sphagnum cuspidatum is dominant, floating in bog pools and inundated depressions; it grows on wet humus in forests and at bases of trees forming a hummock-hollow complex adjacent to bog mats.

In wetlands where submerged Sphagnum mosses are the dominant plants, they consume methane through symbiosis with partly endophytic methanotrophic bacteria, leading to highly effective in situ methane recycling preventing large-scale methane emission into the atmosphere. The bacteria are present in the hyaline cells of the plant.

Management

In Gabon the plants are collected in the dry season and dried in the sun before being used for filling. A disease in humans called cutaneous sporotrichosis causing ulcerous skin lesions is caused by a fungus that may be present in Sphagnum moss. This disease is known in the United States, but may occur elsewhere. It is advised that people who regularly work with fresh or dried Sphagnum wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid direct contact with cuts or scrapes in the skin.

Genetic resources

Market consumption of Sphagnum mosses depends on wild populations. This creates a perennial risk of overexploitation of this ecologically important plant.

Prospects

Peat moss will probably remain a plant product of very limited importance in Africa. In temperate areas it will remain an important source of potting material, but the absence of possibilities of commercial cultivation and the growing need to protect its habitat in wetlands may become limiting factors for its production.

Major references

  • Demaret, F., 1954. Additions à la flore bryologique du Congo Belge. Bulletin du Jardin botanique de l’État à Bruxelles 24(1): 51–55.
  • Eddy, A., 1985. A revision of African Sphagnales. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History). Botany 12: 77–162.
  • Gao Chien & Crosby, M.R. (Editors), 1999–2002. Moss flora of China - English edition. Vol. 1: Sphagnaceae – Leucobryaceae. [Internet] Science Press, Beijing, China and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis MO, United States. http://www.efloras.org/ flora_page.aspx?flora_id=4. 2010.
  • O’Shea, B.J., 2003. Checklist of the mosses of sub-Saharan Africa (version 4, 12/03). [Internet] Tropical Bryology Research Reports 4: 1–182. http://www.oshea.demon.co.uk/ tbr/afrchk4.pdf. 2010.
  • Tan, B.C., 2003. Sphagnum L. In: de Winter, W.P. & Amoroso, V.B. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 15(2): Cryptogams: Ferns and fern allies. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 197–199.

Other references

  • Backius, I., 1989. Flarks in the Maloti, Llesotho. Geografiska Annaler, Series A, Physical Geography 71(1/2): 105–111.
  • Baker, R.G.E. & Boatman, D.J., 1990. Some effects of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and carbon dioxide concentration on the morphology and vegetative reproduction of Sphagnum cuspidatum Ehrh. New Phytologist 116(4): 605–611.
  • Bryan, V.S., 1955. Chromosome Studies in the Genus Sphagnum. The Bryologist 58(1): 16–39.
  • Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
  • Corley, M.F.V., Crundwell, A.C., Düll, R., Hill, M.O. & Smith, A.J.E., 1981. Mosses of Europe and the Azores; an annotated list of species, with synonyms from the recent literature. Journal of Bryology 11: 609–689.
  • Crosby, M.R., Schultze-Motel, U. & Schultze-Motel, W., 1983. Katalog der Laubmoose von Madagaskar und den umliegenden Inseln. Willdenowia 13: 187–255.
  • Maisels, F.G., Cheek, M. & Wild, C., 2000. Rare plants on Mount Oku summit, Cameroon. Oryx 34: 136–140.
  • Raghoebarsing, A.A., Smolders, A.J.P., Schmid, M.C., Rijpstra, W.I.C., Wolters-Arts, M., Derksen, J., Jetten, M.S.M., Schouten, S., Sinninghe Damsté, J.S., Lamers, L.P.M., Roelofs, J.G.M., Op den Camp, H.J.M. & Strous, M., 2005. Methanotrophic symbionts provide carbon for photosynthesis in peat bogs. Nature 436: 1153–1156.
  • Strack, M. & Waddington, J.M., 2008. Spatiotemporal variability in peatland subsurface methane dynamics. Journal of Geophysical Research [Biogeosciences] 113(G2): G02010/1 G02010/12.
  • Walker, A., 1950. Etude sur quelques plantes aquatiques du Gabon. Revue Internationale de Botanique Appliquée et d’Agriculture Tropicale 50(327/328): 439–440.

Sources of illustration

  • Tan, B.C., 2003. Sphagnum L. In: de Winter, W.P. & Amoroso, V.B. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 15(2): Cryptogams: Ferns and fern allies. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 197–199.

Author(s)

  • L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Oyen, L.P.A., 2010. Sphagnum cuspidatum Ehrh. ex Hoffm. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.

Accessed 8 March 2020.