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The sporophyte is relatively short-lived, and consists almost entirely of a shiny green, spherical spore capsule that becomes black with spores.Sporophytes are raised on stalks to facilitate spore dispersal, but unlike other mosses, Sphagnum stalks are produced by the maternal gametophyte.Under the right conditions, peat can accumulate to a depth of many meters.Different species of Sphagnum have different tolerance limits for flooding and p H, so any one peatland may have a number of different Sphagnum species.The exact mechanism has traditionally attributed to a "pop gun" method using air compressed in the capsule, reaching a maximum velocity of 3.6 meters per second, High-speed photography has shown vortex rings are created during the discharge, which enable the spores to reach a height of 10 to 20 cm, further than would be expected by ballistics alone. Decayed, dried sphagnum moss has the name of peat or peat moss.This is used as a soil conditioner which increases the soil's capacity to hold water and nutrients by increasing capillary forces and cation exchange capacity.Dried sphagnum moss is also used in northern Arctic regions as an insulating material.
As the spherical spore capsule dries, the operculum is forced off, followed by a cloud of spores.
In addition, bogs, like all wetlands, develop anaerobic soil conditions, which produces slower anaerobic decay rather than aerobic microbial action.
Peat moss can also acidify its surroundings by taking up cations, such as calcium and magnesium, and releasing hydrogen ions.
Within main clade of Sphagnum, phylogenetic distance is relatively short, and molecular dating methods suggest nearly all current Sphagnum species are descended from a radiation that occurred just 14 million years ago.
Sphagnum mosses occur mainly in the Northern Hemisphere in peat bogs, conifer forests and moist tundra areas.