|HABITATS DIRECTIVE ARTICLE 17 REPORTING*|
|Overall Assessment of Conservation Status||Inadequate|
|Overall Trend in Conservation Status||Stable|
The Conservation Status in the table above is then for the Sphagnum genus in Ireland rather than for the individual species.
Sources: NPWS 2013; European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity.
|IUCN Conservation Status|
|Ireland (1)||Near Threatened|
|Europe (2)**||Not evaluated|
|Global (2)||Not evaluated|
*Although not published separately, an evaluation of 'Least Concern' at a European level is indicated in the Ireland Red List No.8: Bryophytes. This evaluation was carried out under the auspices of the European Committee for Conservation of Bryophytes.
Sources: (1) Lockhart, N., Hodgetts, N. & Holyoak, D. 2012; (2) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3.
Protected by the following legal instruments:
- Habitats Directive [92/42/EEC] Annex V
IdentificationMembers of the Sphagnum genus are distinguished from other moss species by the combination of the following, amongst other, characteristics;
- The absence of rhizoids in the gametophyte, and the presence of groups of spreading and / or pendent branches (these groups referred to as fascicles) arranged at intervals along the main stem.
- As well as chlorophyllose cells (chlorocysts) Sphagnum leaves have adapted large dead cells, 'hyaline' cells, that allow Sphagnum species plants to retain water in relatively large amounts.
- The sporangium lacks the peristome seen in many other moss genera.
- Rather than the seta (stalk) seen in other mosses, in Sphagnum species the spore bearing capsule is borne on a pseudopodium.
- The top end of the plant, where new fascicles are formed, contain many young compact fascicles which give Sphagnum species a distintive 'mop-head' look. This terminal head is termed a capitulum.
- The lack of a leaf mid-rib or 'costa'.
Sphagnum russowiiis one of a group of twelve Irish Sphagnum taxa (including 4 subspecies) that are often referred to collectively as section Acutifolia. In this group the defining characteristics are primarily microscopic e.g. that branch leaves have up to 3 large pores (between 8µm and 30µm) on the underside, and that chlorocyst shape is approximately triangular, the base of the triangle most visible from the upperside of branch leaves.
There are other characteristics that may aid identification in the field.
- Branch leaves are not conspicuously hooded at the apex.
- Stem cortex makes up less than 1/4 of the stem diameter.
- Stem leaves, depending on species and / or conditions will have patches of narrow cells in the angles at the base of the leaves across between 20% and 80% of the width of the leaf base (apart from Sphagnum molle where these patches are absent).
- All species in this section (apart from Sphagnum molle) have stem leaves appressed with the leaf apex directed towards the capitulum in normal growing conditions.
- Stem leaves are lingulate i.e. rather tongue shaped, with parallel sides, often with a notch or slight fringe at the very centre of the apex.
- Branch leaves are ovate.
- Branch leaves are often (but not always) arranged in 5 neat rows along the branch.
- Viewed from above, the capitulum is more often than not distinctly star shaped. Single developing branches may be seen between the rays of the ''star'.
- The terminal bud at the centre of the capitulum while present, is not as distinct as in other species.
- S.russowii has 2 spreading branches and 1 or 2 pendent branches.
- Plant width, including fascicles, between 1 and 2.5cms.
- Well grown shoots to 20cm long.
- Capsules rare.
- When plants are all green, leaves are not arranged in 5 ranks, and no stem leaves show a notched tip (often showing instead a slight fringing at the apex), however in such cases microscopic examination may be necessary to separate this from S. girgensohnii.
- When plants are all red, smaller growing, and no stem leaves show a notched tip, microscopic examination may be necessary to separate this from S. capillifolium ssp. rubellum.
Sources: Atherton, I., Bosanquet, S., Lawley, M., 2010; Smith, A.J.E. 2004.
Many records are from upland areas but the species is recorded also from lower altitudes. Literature suggests a preference for north or east facing slopes, where the species occurs at altitude. Sphagnum russowii is recorded from intermittenlty flushed upland sites in a variety of upland habitats and also unflushed sites. There are rare records of occurence in basic springs.
Habitats may include but are not necessarily limited to;
- Monane Heath (HH4)
- Wet Heath (HH3)
- Bogs (PB)
- Oak-birch-holly woodland (WN1)
- Bog woodland (WN7)
- Conifer plantation (WD4)
- Calcareous springs (FP1)
Sources: Atherton, I., Bosanquet, S., Lawley, M., 2010; Rodwell, J.S. (ed.) 1991; Hill, M.O. et al 1992; Lockhart, N. et al 2012a; Fossitt, J.A. 2001.
Classic alternation of generations with diploid sporophyte and haploid gametophyte generations. In mosses the haploid gametophyte is the longer lived and obvious plant seen in the field.
The sporophyte is the capsule which is borne on a pseudopodium produced from tissue of the gametophyte.
Fertilization of female gametes by male gametes produces the diploid sporophyte. Meiosis of spore mother cells produce haploid spores, which are disseminated when the capsule opens. Spores germinate into a filamentous 'protonema' which will eventually produce the familiar moss gametophyte.Sources: Porley, R. Hodgetts N. 2005.
Sphagnum species can also spread vegetatively through the development of new stems from branches and may also spread via plant fragments.
In the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the period 2007-2012 no threats were listed for this species. In that reporting period the named Sphagnum species of the Habitats Directive occurring in Ireland were given an 'Overall Assessment of Conservation Status' of 'Inadequate' due to;
- 'The poor conservation status of the peatland habitats within which the majority of Sphagnum species occur'.
In the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the period
2007-2012 no Conservation Measures in place or in the process of being
implemented during the period were listed for this species.
Well recorded in Ireland and Britain, the west of northern Europe and mountainous regions of central and southern Europe. Records also from northern North America, Iceland, Greenland and Japan. Northern hemisphere species.
Accuracy of world distribution shown in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) map below will be constrained by, amongst other factors, data held but not shared by countries and organizations not participating in the GBIF.
Mainly recorded from upland areas away from the centre and mid-west.
Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021
The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.
How can you help
The National Biodiversity Data Centre is trying to
improve our knowledge of the distribution of Sphagnum russowii in
Ireland. Should you observe this species, please submit
sightings to add to the database. Detailed observations will assist us
gaining a better insight into where the species
is most abundant in Ireland and we might also be able to detect
regional variations. Please submit any sightings and photographs at:
All records submitted online can be viewed on Google Maps – once checked and validated these will be added to the database and made available for conservation and research.
For further information contact Dr. Liam Lysaght firstname.lastname@example.org
Atherton, I., Bosanquet, S., Lawley, M., 2010. Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland a field guide. British Bryological Society.
Fossitt, J.A. 2001 A Guide to Habitats in Ireland. The Heritage Council.
Frey, W., Frahm, J.P., Fischer E., and Lobin W. 2006. The Liverworts, Mosses and Ferns of Europe. Harley Books, Colchester.
Hill, M.O., Preston C.D., and Smith A.J.E., 1992. Atlas of the Bryophytes of Britain and Ireland Vol. 2 Mosses (except Diplolepideae). Harley Books, Colchester.
Holyoak, D. T. (ed.). 2003. The distribution of bryophytes in Ireland: An annotated review of the occurrence of liverworts and mosses in the Irish vice-counties baseed mainly on the records of the British Bryological Society. Broadleaf Books, Wales.
Lockhart, N., Hodgetts, N. & Holyoak, D. 2012. Ireland Red List No.8: Bryophytes. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin, Ireland.
Lockhart, N., Hodgetts, N. & Holyoak, D. (2012a) Rare and Threatened Bryophytes of Ireland. National Museums of Northern Ireland.
Porley, R. and Hodgetts N. 2005 Mosses & Liverworts, Collins.
Rodwell, J.S. (ed.) 1991. British Plant Communities Vol.2 Mires and Heaths.Cambridge University Press.
Smith, A.J.E. 2004. The Moss Flora of Britain. Cambridge University Press.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 November 2014