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ForestHarvest: non-timber forest products in Scotland

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Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.)

Also known as Bog moss

Habitat

Boggy ground, especially peat.

Uses

Sphagnum moss is gathered commercially from Scottish woodlands for the horticultural trade (hanging baskets) and for floristry (wreaths). It also has medicinal uses.

In Lapland, sphagnum was once used as an ingredient in bread. In Scotland, it is much better known as a constituent of the peaty flavour of whiskies.

Sphagnum moss is absorbent and slightly antiseptic. It was used in massive quantities for dressing wounds during World Wars I and II; collecting moss was classed as essential war work.

Sphagnum has traditionally been used for bedding, to pack wall cavities (providing soundproofing, draughtproofing and insulation), and red sphagnum has even been used to caulk boats.

Gathering

Mosses should only be gathered with the landowner's permission, and in a sustainable manner. Don't strip an area bare. Mossing usually takes place in the winter.

The sustainability of moss harvesting depends on where and how it is gathered. Current thinking is that moss gathered from conifer plantations is potentially a sustainable NTFP: gathering sphagnum moss from peat bogs is definitely not sustainable and causes damage to vulnerable habitats.

 

Wild Harvests research - uses in Scotland today

Spagnum moss: used to provide craft materials, gardening supplies and medicines for personal use

Photo - sphagnum moss alongside oak leaves
More on mosses

See also the general entry for mosses