Once again many of the characters used to identify Sphagnum species are near microscopic. Trying to ID Sphagnum species from photographs that do not reveal these characteristics is going to be difficult or in some cases guesswork. If you knew exactly what species have been identified in the location where the specimens have been collected you might be able to narrow it down.
Classification Criteria of Sphagnum Species
Classification of sphagna takes experience, and is sometimes impossible without the aid of a microscope. The following criteria are applied to distinguish between species:
- Number of branches per fascicle
- Number of pendent and spreading branches, and their degree of differentiation
- Shape of branch leaves (squarrose, hooded, etc.)
- Direction of stem leaves (upward, downward or horizontal)
- Shape of the head
- Size and prominence of the terminal bud
- Secondary pigments
- Shape and location of chlorocytes
- Spiral fortification of hyalocytes
- Number, size, and fortification of pores
- Structure of hyalocyte cell walls (papillose or other ornamentations)
Source http://homepage.univie.ac.at/eva.temsch/classif.htmlThe plant and stem color, the shape of the branch and stem leaves, and the shape of the green cells are all characteristics used to identify peat moss to species. Sphagnum taxonomy has been very contentious since the early 1900s; most species require microscopic dissection to be identified. In the field, most Sphagnum species can be identified to one of four major sections of the genus—classification and descriptions follow Andrus 2007 (Flora North America)
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SphagnumOf the 74 species in North America listed in the USDA database about a dozen are labeled as threatened. These may be protected by laws in your state. So collect with caution.Microscopic features can be observed by using a concentrated aqueous or alcohol solution of Crystal Violet. A 50% solution of alcohol and Methylene Blue or Safranin Red can be used, but these usually do not stain features such as minute pores, fibrils, wall thinnings, and surface sculpture on the chlorophyllous cells. The number and kinds of branches should be determined, individual stem and branch leaves (from the middle of a spreading branch) should be examined from the distal 2 cm of the plant, and the superficial surface of stem cortical cells may need examination as well as cross sections of branch leaves and stems.