Spiky bog-moss record by Dan Foy

 Zoomed in image of the spiky bog-moss (Sphagnum squarrosum)


The Tarbock Hall Estate is a wonderful 96ha area of former farmland in Knowsley, located between Tarbock and Halewood that has essentially been unintentionally rewilded; is consists of vast areas of grassland (lots of it relatively species-rich full of Dactylorhiza orchids), rivers, ancient and plantation woodlands, swamps and a wide variety of pond types. The area is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and I often get the impression that there is still so much to find and record on the Estate. I was biological recording in the area on the 7th March and was searching for ponds in the blocks of woodland, some of the stands of ancient woodland are now surrounded by large areas of plantation woodland and natural regeneration woodland, and are hard to get into at times, however when you find these areas of old woodland they are regularly dotted with what appear to be old marl pits (used as an ancient way of fertilising farmland), these pits are often quite species-rich, with aquatic vegetation and marginal growth such as iris beds, and probably support a diverse aquatic invertebrate community. On this particular day my attention was taken by bird calls from a nearby area of woodland, I followed the calls and found a flock of some c.35 teal Anas crecca (quite a record in itself locally) on a wooded marl pond, the pond was large with ancient moss lined tees surrounding it and my attention was drawn to a relatively large raft of vegetation. These rafts are always interesting and botanically rich, and usually signify a very old pond; this was no exception, with the raft including a large colony of Sphagnum species (see photo 1 below).


Photo 1: raft of vegetation consisting of sedges, rushes, willow and spiky bog-moss
Photo 1: Raft of vegetation consisting of sedges, rushes, willow and spiky bog-moss


As the moss was on an inaccessible raft in the centre of the pond it was hard to get near to and identify, so I took some zoomed in photos in order to identify the species at home. After reading through some online BBS guidance and recruiting the expertise of Josh Styles to confirm the identification, it became clear that this is spiky bog-moss Sphagnum squarrosum; a species which favours nutrient-rich wet swampy ground, often in shaded woodland and willow carr settings. It is a large species with upright spikey lime-green stems and long-floppy/shaggy spiked leaves, and the large terminal bud protruding well above the rest of the plant (see photo 2 below). 


Photo 2: zoomed in image of the spiky bog-moss Sphagnum squarrosum
Photo 2: Zoomed in image of the spiky bog-moss, Sphagnum squarrosum


All records of Sphagnum in the Merseyside area are rare and indeed very noteworthy, so to find this was a real pleasure, however, Sphagnum squarrosum is a real treat! The species was thought to be extinct in Merseyside; and according to the BBS database, the last known records (located around Formby area) were pre-1950! It just goes to show that there is always something good to be found if you look hard enough!


By Dan Foy 


* Remember you can submit your records of mosses via our website, iRecord or iNaturalist *