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Thread: Sphagnum as “The Canary in the Coal Mine”

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    BigBella's Avatar
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    Sphagnum as “The Canary in the Coal Mine”

    What may seem obvious to experienced growers may be of some benefit to those just starting out . . .

    I have found over the years that the utilization of live sphagnum, whether as a component in composts or simply as a top-dressing, offers several benefits to carnivorous plants, one of the chief being a clear benchmark of water quality and, ultimately, that of the eventual health of the plants themselves.

    Sphagnum moss is notoriously sensitive to mineral-laden water and will not survive that condition for long. In many parts of the area where I live, for example, the water is so "choked" with minerals that plaques will quickly accumulate in any kettle or coffee maker; so growers generally depend upon reverse osmosis as a source of watering both their carnivorous plants and orchids, since summers in "Kali-fornia" rarely see any rain. The moss also has the additional benefit of providing local humidity for sensitive species and serves as a good indicator of when water is needed, since the sphagnum will quickly discolor as it is dries; and it is also highly-sensitive to fertilizers of any sort, "sounding" through its easily-burned tps, a potential "early alarm" for the grower. In addition, it tends to eventually crowd out any "unwanted" items in a pot. I have never seen Botrytis (a potentially destructive mold), for example, where the sphagnum actively grows.

    While it may be somewhat difficult to obtain in its live form (though is far more common now), it is a simple task to induce long-fiber sphagnum (either from Chile or New Zealand, easily obtained from better nursuries) to grow from its dried condition. Simply load some saturated moss in a gallon or larger zip-lock bag, allow for moderate light and Tb, and let the innumerable spores do their worst. In a few weeks, you should see some growth.

    In the photos below, I simply began with a few large handfuls from a 500 gram bale of New Zealand Sphagnum (Sphagnum cristatum), saturated the mess, and I do mean saturated it, with RO water -- and six weeks or so later:



    Healthy sphagnum, more often than not, indicates a healthy plant -- and it looks nice. What could be more better?

    “Sì perché l'autorità dell'opinione di mille nelle scienze non val per una scintilla di ragione di un solo . . ."

    -- Galileo "Biff" Galilei

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    Metal King
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    What could be more better?
    Maybe that sentence could be better I kid btw

    But you make a good point for sure, nothing like having a basically foolproof indicator that doesn't need batteries and looks nice to boot!
    Da Growlist

    "You don't need a license to drive a sandwich"-Spongebob Squarepants

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    I used to have a shirt from "mo betta"...

    I totally agree with BigBella. It's great for rooting things and live sphagnum is like a miracle cure for sick and ailing Nepenthes too - I learned that from the folks at Kew. When one starts to go south, the first thing they do is repot in a container full of live sphagnum.

    For me, the sphagnum grows much faster if you wet it a little every day. If you just have a small amount of the live stuff you can chop it into tiny bits and strategically place the chopped bits all around the soil surface. Keep it wet and eventually you will have a nice lush bed of live sphagnum which helps the plant as BigBella said and as it grows you can harvest it for other uses.

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    HPLH's Avatar
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    is LFS really that easy to reanimate? im currently trying it in a water bottle

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    BigBella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WildBill View Post
    I used to have a shirt from "mo betta"...

    I totally agree with BigBella. It's great for rooting things and live sphagnum is like a miracle cure for sick and ailing Nepenthes too - I learned that from the folks at Kew. When one starts to go south, the first thing they do is repot in a container full of live sphagnum.

    For me, the sphagnum grows much faster if you wet it a little every day. If you just have a small amount of the live stuff you can chop it into tiny bits and strategically place the chopped bits all around the soil surface. Keep it wet and eventually you will have a nice lush bed of live sphagnum which helps the plant as BigBella said and as it grows you can harvest it for other uses.
    I too had a similar T-shirt at one point, though my favorite (unofficially) commemorated Pope John Paul II's visit to San Francisco in the 1980s: "Kiss the ring, baby, bite the wafer!" My mother was not pleased -- not one bit . . .

    As far as the moss is concerned, I cannot even tell you many species just volunteered in the stuff. A friend gave me some a few years back and it turned out that there were Drosera adelae seeds throughout the moss. There were no surviving fruit flies a couple years out . . .
    “Sì perché l'autorità dell'opinione di mille nelle scienze non val per una scintilla di ragione di un solo . . ."

    -- Galileo "Biff" Galilei

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    BigBella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HPLH View Post
    is LFS really that easy to reanimate? im currently trying it in a water bottle
    Yes . . .

    Even if the weasels who distribute the stuff say it is "sterile," there is no way to ensure that spores will not survive. The damn things live centuries or more in some species and withstand fire, the scourage of Obama, and high taxes . . .
    “Sì perché l'autorità dell'opinione di mille nelle scienze non val per una scintilla di ragione di un solo . . ."

    -- Galileo "Biff" Galilei

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    HPLH's Avatar
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    well i knew it couldnt be sterile, but thats awsome im going to keep trying and get LFS growing, thanks BigBella

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    Capensis Killer upper's Avatar
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    how much light and what is the recommended temp for it, its been like 5 months since i tried to grow my sphagnum and i can barely see a shade of green. i grow it outdoor in shade, live in los angeles/CA

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