by Lewis E. Anderson, A. Jonathan Shaw, and Blanka Shaw
Sphagnum, commonly known as peat moss, is widely used in agriculture, horticulture, and floriculture. Living plants are colorful and add much to the beauty of wetlands. It takes little training to recognize the genus, and most of the sections are almost easy to recognize. Yet they are scarcely noticed by field botanists, and even bryologists tend to avoid them; they have a reputation of being taxonomically difficult but this applies only to a subset.
There are few taxonomic treatments of Sphagnum in North America, yet it is a fascinating genus whose species comprise an integral part of nearly all fresh-water wetlands. Almost all significant critical taxonomic characters are microscopic and require dissections and staining, which can, with a little practice, be easily self-taught.
Even with a moderate amount of field experience, however, a novice can learn to recognize sections and some species in the field with certainty (although there are many species that even experts cannot distinguish without a compound microscope). All field identifications need to be confirmed microscopically. This volume will aid those who venture into identifying peat mosses.
Hardcover, 126 pages, black and white illustrations throughout, 11'' x 7.5'', The New York Botanical Garden Press, 2009, ISBN 0893275050