Sphagnum teres | Rigid Bog-moss



Conservation status

Future ProspectsN/A
Overall  Assessment of Conservation StatusInadequate
Overall Trend in Conservation StatusStable
*All E.U. Sphagnum species  are identified as requiring assessment under the Habitats Directive. Guidelines on reporting for the Habitats Directive indicate that these species are required to be reported on as a group, unless a member state is of the opinion that individual species within the group may require special attention. In the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the period 2007-2012 none of the named Sphagnum species of the Habitats Directive occurring in Ireland were identified as requiring special attention there.

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.

Legal status

Protected by the following legal instruments:

  • Habitats Directive [92/42/EEC] Annex V

Native status


Species Biology


All members of the Sphagnum genus are distinguished from other moss species by the combination of the following 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'.

Sphangnum teres is one of two Irish Sphagnum species that are often referred to collectively as section Squarrosa. In the field these two species normally look quite different from each other.

  • The terminal bud i.e. that in the centre of the capitulum is much more obvious than in most other Sphagnum species in that it is relatively large and conical, usually larget than S. squarrosum which has a similarly large treminal bud.
  • In S. teres  this terminal bud projects above the surrounding capitulum when viewed from the side. In S. squarrosum which has a similar large, conical terminal bud it is slightly immersed in the capitulum.
  • Normally has 3 (rarely 2) spreading branches and 2 pendent branches.
  • Branches often appear 'stiff'.`
  • The branch leaves, which may be over 2mm long when fully developed, contract above the middle, to form a quite pointed leaf apex.
  • In S. teres this pointed branch leaf apex is normally only slightly recurved away from the branch, but may be more so in shaded conditions.
  • Stem leaves are large, parallel sided and overall tongue shaped, and may be orientated in any direction, but often spreading from the stem.
  • In well lit situations S. teres has a distinctive yellow / brown almost ginger colour, with the centre of the capitulum a contrasting green.
  • Well grown shoots to 20cm long
  • Well grown shoots to 1.5cm wide, including fascicles.
  • In shaded conditions stem leaves become more recurved and overall colour becomes green meaning confusion with S. squarrosum is possible.`

  • Capsules rare.

  • Where leaves are not recurved and colour is green confusion with S. girgensohnii is possible but that species has stem leaves always apressed and apex directed towards capitulum.

    Sources: Atherton, I., Bosanquet, S., Lawley, M.,  2010; Lockhart, N., Hodgetts, N. & Holyoak, D. 2012a; Smith, A.J.E. 2004;Hill, M.O., 1992.


Associated with more base rich environments, or at least base rich flushes in otherwise base poor environments.

Habitats may include but are not necessarily limited to;

  • Rich fen and flush (PF1)
  • Transition mire and quaking bog (PF3)
  • Bogs (PB)
  • Marsh (GM1)

  • Montane Heath (HH4)
  • Wet Heath (HH3)

Sources: Atherton, I., Bosanquet, S., Lawley, M.,  2010;  Smith, A.J.E. 2004; Rodwell, J.S. (ed.) 1991; Hill, M.O. et al 1992; 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.

Threats faced

In the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the period 2007-2012 no current 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'.
Source: NPWS 2013.

Conservation actions

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.

Source: NPWS 2013.

 In Rare and Threatened Bryophytes of Ireland it is suggested that while there is no evidence for decline of Sphagnum teres, areas of suitable habitat may have been lost due to drainage activities. It is suggested there that the conservation status of the species be monitiored.

In the 2012 Irish Red List of Bryophytes by the same authors it is suggested that there should be;

  • Research into population trends.

Sources: Lockhart, N., Hodgetts, N. & Holyoak, D. 2012; Lockhart, N., Hodgetts, N. & Holyoak, D. 2012(a).


World distribution(GBIF)

Circumpolar, boreal and arctic and also extending also further south, but records further south less frequent.

Source: Hill, M.O. et al 1992

European records appear concentrated in Britain, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark. Records also from  the Netherlands. Germany, Austria, southern France, northern Spain, the south of Greenland, Svalbard.

Records also from eastern North America and western North America,as well as New Zealand and Japan.

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.

Irish distribution

Widespread but scattered.

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2020

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 teres 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.

Further information

For further information contact Dr. Liam Lysaght



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., 1992. Sphagnum: A Field Guide, Revised by Hodgetts, N.G. & Payne, A.G., ISBN 1 87370 114 4

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. <>. Downloaded on 19 November 2014.