Magazine article Sierra

Gather No Moss?

Magazine article Sierra

Gather No Moss?

Article excerpt

The bale of peat moss my father used on our lawn always stood in a corner of the garden like a burlap refrigerator, holding a rich, dark substance smelling of the swamp. The sharp, vinegary reek of decaying vegetable matter seemed to me an essential part of gardening.

But as wetlands around the world have been drained and filled and cut away, some environmentally minded gardeners have begun to wonder if they are building up their lawns and flowerbeds at the expense of fragile ecosystems elsewhere.

Peat moss is the partially decomposed remains of sphagnum moss, a plant that defines the bogland ecosystems where it is found. As it grows, the lower parts of sphagnum die and are buried beneath the new growth; eventually, the dead moss is compacted and deprived of oxygen by the weight above it and forms peat, a dense vegetable mud. This mat of dead and living sphagnum literally supports the plant life of the bog. If sphagnum moss is not cut out completely, it will slowly grow back. But since it is the keystone of bog ecosystems, cutting it results in the destruction of many other plants as well as wildlife habitat.

In Ireland and Great Britain, peat bogs are in danger of disappearing. The problem is exacerbated by the relatively small acreage of peatlands, and by development, agricultural use, and the commercial harvesting of peat for fuel. Many conservationists, gardeners, and wetlands scientists in these countries have recommended a boycott of horticultural peat.

In the United States, peat moss is harvested in Indiana, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and Minnesota, but most of the peat Americans use comes from Canada, which boasts 270 million acres of peatlands. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.