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When you buy dried/dehydrated, compacted bricks of sphagnum moss from gardening suppliers and stores, etc., is it supposed to be alive, and/or able to grow, upon rehydration? Or is it dead?


I bought some of this Brunnings brand, expanding sphagnum moss (not sure what species, possibly Sphagnum cristatum and/or Sphagnum subnitens), from the similarly named (but unrelated) Bunnings Warehouse. It is supposedly ★★★★★/AAA-grade New Zealand sphagnum: Brunnings Sphagnum Moss


I experimented with it in a bunch of different environments, including some living terrarium/vivarium type landscapes.

Basically, it looks like a sopping wet, dark brown/yellow, lifeless mess of decaying fern fronds and leaf litter, blending in the the soils and substrates, and eventually taking the shape of its container. I was expecting it to develop into a lush, living, upright, green blanket, or carpet of sorts; like this:

Sphagnum squarrosum Sphagnum squarrosum

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This product is primarily intended for use as a growing medium for particular plants such as Sarracenia/carnivorous ones, or for mixing in to other materials to create a particular potting mix to supposedly improve water retention, or, if you like the look of dead moss, topdressing some plant pots. Some bits of it may start growing again, but the bulk of it probably won't and isn't really intended to. I note the bag does not say whether it contains long fibre or milled sphagnum, if its actually sphagnum anyway, and I can't see the word 'sterilised' anywhere either, though more information may be on the back of the packaging.

Sphagnum moss is a largely non renewable resource, is primarily taken from peat bogs, and like peat, the harvesting of it is restricted or banned in some countries. More information on sphagnum here; note particularly the warning at the bottom of the page regarding Sporotrichosis http://www.sarracenia.com/faq/faq3240.html

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RE-hydrated New Zealand long-fibered sphagnum moss

To add on to the previous answer, lots of people also use dried sphagnum to root cuttings and in orchid potting mixes. I've used it for carnivorous plants and soil top-dressing, but it's never greened up until this package. I've had this bag for at least several years, probably closer to 5 years.

Several weeks ago, I pulled some out of the bag and put it into a take-out container that seals. I boiled tap water, let it cool for a bit, poured it over the moss and put on the lid. About an hour later, I stirred it so everything would rehydrate. It's been sitting on my back patio getting filtered sun, with temps ranging from 40-78 Fahrenheit. It's only growing in a few spots, but I was quite surprised to see it green when I opened the container today.

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