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A new species of sphagnum has been identified by Moors for the Future Partnership. Nicknamed Futuristic Bog Moss, or Sphagnum futura, the plant is said to be the first true blue sphagnum species.
The patch of startling violet sphagnum was discovered in August 2019 during a routine vegetation survey by volunteers from Moors for the Future Partnership. Its distinguishing features include its futuristic colouring, and the fact that ‘it looks a bit alieny’. So far it is only known to grow in the Peak District and South Pennine Moors.
Volunteer Bill Berry was the first to spot the unusual looking moss.
‘The moss grows very close to the ground and was mostly hidden under a clump of heather. But as soon as I spotted it I knew this was something quite different. I signalled to colleagues to come and see what I’d found and everyone was pretty excited. However, one of the experts pointed out that individual species of sphagnum can vary in colour and this was probably just an extreme variation. I was quite deflated. Now it’s been verified as a new species I’m over the moon!’
Once the team had taken a note of the location of the moss, and a number of photos, they shared the information with the research and monitoring team at Moors for the Future Partnership. Expert advice was called in, from the University of Cool Plants, which has now, nearly a year later, verified the moss to be a unique and previously unknown species.
Science programme manager Dave Chandler said:
‘A small army of volunteers undertakes vegetation surveys for us every year. These are crucial to our work to discover changes to the vegetation growing on the moors. What we didn’t expect was to discover a completely new species of sphagnum moss. This is fantastic news that makes me wonder what else is up there!’