Peat moss (Sphagnum) grows within wet, boggy areas that contains a low pH. The moss grows in dense clumps that float on the water. The top layer of the moss consists of living plant and the lower layer is dead with decay. The plant has no live root system, and the top tufts grow approximately 4 inches in height with most of the growth under water. Harvested peat moss is a popular growing medium in gardens around the world.
Peat moss reproduces by spores. When the weather conditions are dry, the peat moss forms abundant tiny spores that are dispersed using the wind. The peat plant also reproduces by simply spreading outward.
Peat moss forms an extremely dense mat that floats on top of the bog water. The top 1 inch or so of peat moss floats on top, while the lower inches of peat moss retain rainwater like a sponge. This actually raises the water table of the bog and insures continued life for both the bog and the peat moss.
The peat moss transforms the bog water by ion exchange. The moss easily absorbs cations from the rainwater and releases hydrogen ions back into the bog water. This quickly renders the bog water acidic with a pH of 3 to 4, which is ideal for the survival of the peat moss. This makes the bog capable of supporting only the peat moss, which cuts out competition from other plant life by making the environment incapable of supporting anything else.
Early Stage of Coal
Peat moss is one of the early stages of coal production. Over the course of 400 million years, a peat bog will become covered in sediment. The moisture will gradually leave the peat and compact it into more sediments which will form bituminous coal. Eventually it will transform again into what is known as anthracite coal.
Peat moss is widely harvested around the world commercially for the garden industry. The peat moss bog is loosened by milling machines to allow airflow, which makes the moss dry out. Once the top layer is dry, vacuum harvesters are brought in to suck up the peat moss. Once vacuumed into large trucks, the peat is transferred to a packaging facility.