is a versatile plant. Many cultures have used this plant for its sterile
, anti-microbial properties and its ability to hold up to 14 times its own weight in water.
Sphagnum moss is composed of minute tubes and spaces creating the effect of a very fine sponge. The cells readily absorb and retain water. The water can be squeezed out and the moss will not collapse -- leaving it ready to take in water again.
The plant is not dependent on soil water because it can absorb moisture directly from the air. It grows naturally in bogs -- Wisconsin and New Zealand are two of the largest producers of sphagnum moss.
During the American Civil War, sphagnum moss was often used to dress wounds -- where it was found to promote healing better than cotton or linen dressings. It has also been used to pack diapers. Prior to World War II, sphagnum moss was collected in Scotland to lessen the military demand for scarce cotton wool. Many campers use sphagnum moss as a natural toilet paper. Today the major use of the sphagnum moss is in orchid cultivation and in packing organic materials for transport.