Sphagnum moss grows in damp areas with high soil acidity. It grows in clumps, which can spread over a large area. Gardeners usually know about sphagnum moss and its many uses. Its ability to absorb and retain water and its ability to insulate naturally provides many applications for plant care. However, this moss's value, historically and in modern times, also extends beyond the garden.
Use small bags of the crumbled moss as soil-free seed starter. Place the moss in a small container, dampen and place the seeds within. The moss helps keep them warm and moist enough, but not too moist, as they prepare to germinate. Use the moss for growing orchids as well.
Sphagnum moss can be used in hanging planter baskets for flowers. The moss helps keep the soil warm and holds moisture in, keeping the soil from drying out as quickly. Sometimes, the moss is mixed in with the soil, for hanging baskets and in the garden, to aerate the soil and/or add acidity. Florists also use it for decorative and preservative purposes.
Because of its extreme absorbency (the moss can absorb many times its own weight), medical personnel used sphagnum moss historically as a wound dressing. They applied the moss either directly to a wound to staunch bleeding or dried and placed in a cloth sack to be pressed to a wound.
Place a bit of this moss on top of a house plant's soil helps keep the plant roots warm and the soil damp--by using sphagnum this way, you'll cut down the need to water house plants as frequently.
The absorbent and insulating nature of sphagnum has been put to many other uses--for example, it's been dried and placed in barns as bedding for barn animals, to keep them warm and dry. For similar reasons, mothers in sphagnum-rich areas placed the dried moss in infants' diapers.
When dry, the moss burns easily. Thus it has also been used as a fire starter or fuel source.
The bogs wherein this moss thrives can become ideal for preserving human bodes and animals. This occurs because the acidity and lack of oxygen in these bogs prevents the bacterial growth necessary for decomposition.
Corey M. Mackenzie
Corey M. Mackenzie has been a professional freelance writer for more than two decades. She received a B.A. with honors from Wichita State University. Corey specializes in writing about pets, interior decorating, health care, gardening, fashion, relationships, home improvement and forensic science. Corey's articles have appeared in Garden Guides, Travels and other websites.