Essays, botanical travelogues, and other resources provided for students, instructors and anyone else seeking a deeper understanding of the nature of plants. Proceed below for recent posts or go to the Table of Contents (in the column to the right) for an organized list of topics.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Mosses of Central Florida 16. Sphagnum recurvum
The leafy shoots of Sphagnum recurvum consist of
a compact head of short shoots, with a ring of
longer shoots hanging below. Each shoot in this
complex consists of a series of closely spaced
[Note: this species was previously posted erroneously as Sphagnum palustre. (See discussion below about the difficulty of identifying the species of Sphagnum!!) Thanks to Dr. Richard Andrus for the correct identification.]
Sphagnum recurvum P. Beauv. (Sphagnaceae) is one of the most common, and most abundant sphagnum mosses in central and northern Florida. Outside of the state, it occurs throughout eastern North America as far north as Newfoundland.
Sphagnum species are notoriously difficult to identify, however, and it is probably safe to say that only Sphagnum specialists can use the technical keys to identify a specimen, and even then there is uncertainty and disagreement. The characters that distinguish particular species, and even whole groups of species, are anatomical in nature, requiring specialized skills to view and interpret.
25 species are presently known to occur in Florida, 18 of which extend into central Florida. Few extend much further south than Hillsborough and Polk Counties, but P. recurvum reaches its southern limit in Highlands County. These numbers and distributions are only approximate, as the herbarium records involved have not all been verified by specialists. Additional collecting will also add to our knowledge of the distributions of species.
An extensive colony of Sphagnum recurvum near the Hillsborough River, occurring in a flat
Sphagnum recurvum is distinguished from other species in Hillsborough County by its larger shoot size, and the distinctive rounded shape of its terminal cluster of branches. It also occurs, in our area, in a unique habitat zone: in relatively flat, continuously wet zones, such as a seepage area, which is neither often flooded nor completely desiccated. S. recurvum rarely produces sporangia in Florida.
Another common species found nearby, S. strictum occurs in drier habitats and has smaller, distinctly whitish clusters of shoots (profile of this species to follow immediately after this). A third species, yet to be identified, occurs in intermediate habitats.
Although the species are difficult to identify, the genus is unmistakable, particularly with a quick look at a leaf under a microscope. The leaves are just one cell thick, but differentiated into two kinds of cells. The green, photosynthetic cells are long and narrow, and form an interconnected network between much larger water-storage cells.