Peat Moss Defined - Knowledgebase Question

Aurora, IL
Question by AntoinettePV
December 17, 1997
What is the difference between Michigan peat, which is black, almost dirt-like in composition, and Sphagnum Peat Moss? What are the origins of each and what is their difference as a soil conditioner?

Answer from NGA
December 17, 1997


Peat is the dead, partially decomposed organic material that accumulates in the lower levels of peat bogs. It is used as a soil conditioner and helps break up heavy clay soils as well as improving the water-holding capacity of sandy soils.

Sphagnum moss is a living moss that grows on top of a sphagnum bog. It is generally used by florists. In the natural processes that occur in the bog environment, layers of the moss become submerged and begin to decay. This decayed sphagnum moss often makes up a large percentage of commercial peats.

Peat is "harvested" from natural peat bogs, processed, and sold by various companies. Peat contains organic material in various stages of decomposition; the Michigan peat you describe sounds like it contains highly decomposed plant matter; other peats may contain less-decomposed material. Also, some differences you see among bags of peat may be due to processing and packaging.

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