Peat And Peat Moss


Sphagnum peat moss (includes related moss peats)

Reed-sedge peat (also called fibrous peat)

Peat Humus

Identifying Characteristics

Light yellow to brown; extremely fibrous; readily identifiable; whole plant remains

Physical Properties

Least decomposed or raw; highest moisture-holding capacity, lowest bulk density

Dark brown to reddish brown; variable in fibrosity; identifiable plant remains

Most favorable state of decomposition for immediate soil benefit; intermediate mois-ture-holding capacity and bulk density

Very dark brown to black; advanced state of decomposition; few if any fibers; no identifiable plant remains

Very low moisture-holding capacity; highest bulk density; almost completely decomposed

Chemical Properties

Highest acidity; lowest ash content; lowest nitrogen content; highest in organic matter

Low cellulose content; high in organic matter, mild acidity; low ash content; high nitrogen content

Highest nitrogen and ash content; variable acidity; lowest in organic matter


Highest water-holding capacity; lowest volume weight; high acidity; desirable for acid-loving plants such as conifers; very sterile free from plant disease and noxious weed seeds

Two to three times the nitrogen content of sphagnum; contains organic acid in its original moist condition; mixes smoothly with soil; free of weed seed; does not suffer the rapid uneconomic decomposition of sphagnum

Lowest but most stable organic matter


Tends to decompose faster than other types; problems in mixing with soil because of light, fibrous structure; difficult to wet; high acidity can injure acid-intolerant plants; tendency to blow away

Does not hold quite as much moisture as sphagnum; bacterially active when applied

Very dusty when dry; drying difficult to apply; may have impaired rewettability; may contain noxious weed seed

Figure 2.13

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  • mezan
    Is reed sedge peat humus poison to birds?
    5 years ago

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