FlytrapCare Carnivorous Plant Forums

Sponsored by FlytrapStore.com

Discuss any carnivorous plant that doesn't fit in the above categories here or general chat about carnivorous plants

Moderator: Matt

By Jagasian
Posts:  191
Joined:  Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:16 am
#310311
Sphagnum is a genus of hundreds of species of mosses also known as “peat moss” because many of these species form most of the world’s peat. What is peat? It is a high quality mulch, typically made from the decayed remains of sphagnum that very slowly decays and so it makes a great ingredient for soil. Dried sphagnum that has not yet started to decay is also a popular substrate to grow many plants in, since it is very spongey and so it holds lots of water and air, but is also rot resistant. Lower quality peat is formed from other plants such as bog grass. Avoid the non-sphagnum peat like the plague.

Living Fossil
A recent scientific discovery, the oldest fossil of a land plant, is a fossil of sphagnum! Sphagnum is a veritable living fossil. Full article is here.

Nature’s Bandage
Sphagnum is prized for its rot resistant properties, which is why it is used as a medium for cloning and rooting other plants. A stalk, stem, or leaf of another plant can be cut off and the cut end can be inserted into wet sphagnum dead or alive and the decay resistant nature of sphagnum keeps the cutting from rotting before it can heal and grow roots. Pro-tip: placing cuttings in live sphagnum is far more effective because live sphagnum actively emits acids and sugars that both protect and feed the cutting you are trying to clone. In ancient times, humans even used sphagnum bandages to keep their wounds from rotting. More details here.

Rot Resistance Varies
Not all sphagnum species deliver the same level of decay resistance that you want when using sphagnum as a growing medium for other plants. The saying “easy come, easy go” applies to sphagnum species. The fast growing species are the least decay resistant.

Sphagnum species are best classified on a spectrum corresponding to how far above the surface of the water/ground they grow. The fastest growing species are the lowest species in terms of distance from the surface of the water/ground, in fact, they grow right beneath the surface of the water, they love high water nutrient levels, low acidity, and weak light. These fast growers are the fastest to rot. The higher above the waterline or ground that a sphagnum species grows in the wild, it has access to lower amounts of water and nutrients, and so the topmost species above the ground simply do not have the resources to grow fast. These species are high above the water and ground and so they are rarely shaded by other plants or rocks, they get blasted by full sunlight and so they evolved a strategy of growing tissues that last a long time by not decaying because if they did decay, the nutrients for rebuilding the tissues would simply not be available. These high-up species are slow moving tanks, highly acidic, dessication resistant, and their tissues “tan” dark colors to prevent sunburn: deep dark purple or nearly blackish brown are common colors for these types of sphagnum. In the wild, the top two species in this classification are fuscum and austinii, the slow brown tanks of the sphagnum world.

More details on the decay resistance of several different sphagnum species can be found here.

Below is a picture of two solid mounds of sphagnum austinii growing almost knee height above the ground in full sunlight. These mounds are actually a miniature forest of sphagnum austinii stalks growing tightly packed together. Each stalk is several inches to 24 inches long! The individual sphagnum stalks hold each other up be leaning on each other. The color brown does not mean dead in this species, it is the plant tanning to protect its chloroplasts from being sunburned.
01334AAC-946F-4F66-8EDD-1355B982E71D.jpeg
01334AAC-946F-4F66-8EDD-1355B982E71D.jpeg (51.56 KiB) Viewed 2970 times
Here is a study of a real bog, comparing the height above the ground/waterline and acidity of several sphagnum species including fuscum and austinii. Note the extreme acidity of these two species gets to a 2.6 pH. That explains the decay resistance.

I have to grab lunch, but will post more interesting science articles on tips for growing sphagnum faster. The articles will cover optimal light intensity, photoperiod, temperature, and water pH. There is even an article that shows how mixing in a very small amount of sugar into the sphagnum’s water can boost its growth rate by 40 times its normal growth rate.
Jagasian, Jagasian, Jagasian and 3 others liked this
By Mawy_Plants
Posts:  383
Joined:  Tue Jul 25, 2017 5:23 am
#310313
So much information about sphagnum, I love this post! Also gorgeous cultures btw. I hope to develop my sphagnum collection to something spectacular like yours and a few other members here. Thank you for sharing! :D
By Jagasian
Posts:  191
Joined:  Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:16 am
#310316
Thanks for the encouragement. A goal of mine is to educate people about different sphagnum species and how to grow them, but also to learn to appreciate them as a plant worthy of growing as an ornamental plant in its own right and not just growing it to be used as mulch for other plants. Sphagnum was here first. Orchids and carnivorous plants are the newcomers.

Regardless, sustainably farmed long fiber or live sphagnum is an environmentally friendly growing medium, compared to sphagnum peat, which is not sustainably harvested and in fact is harvested by scraping the living layers of sphagnum off of a bog to get to the peat below.

Before I jump into the scientific articles on optimal environmental parameters for farming sphagnum, I wanted to most a few motivational articles on how sphagnum borders on being magical.

Quaking Bogs
In the wild, multiple different sphagnum species work as a team to invade and conquer new territory. Some sphagnum species are known as "pioneer species". The pioneer species of sphagnum are capable of growing very quickly and can grow in environments that are not acidic and where the water has very high PPM. An environment that fits this description is a pond or small lake. The water is high PPM, full of nutrients. The pioneer sphagnum species have two types: those that can grow under the surface of the water and those that grow just above the surface. They work together to incircle the perimeter of a small lake, and their mission for team sphagnum is to lower the water nutrient levels and make the water acidic by rapidly converting the nutrients in the water into acids. As these pioneers grow, they also start to creep further and further from the edge of the lake towards the center by creating a floating ring around the lake that gets thicker and thicker, eventually covering the entire surface of the lake with sphagnum. As the sphagnum layer covers a lake it starts to grow upwards and the pioneer species get too far away from the water surface to survive. These pioneer species also sunburn and windburn easily, which is why a sphagnum bog's climax species are important. The climax sphagnum species form a protective "outer skin" for the giant mountain of moss. The climax species can survive on water/soil that has almost no nutrients in it, and in fact, high PPM water kills climax species. You can think of a sphagnum bog as one living organism: the climax species are the tough skin, protecting the soft lower down species from sunburn, windburn, and desiccation, and the pioneer species are the liver and kidneys, cleansing the fluids of a bog's body.

Here is a short video animation explaining this process of bog formation.
raisedbogformation.jpg
raisedbogformation.jpg (35.44 KiB) Viewed 2948 times
This process of raised bog formation takes thousands of years. Before a bog is raised, it is possible for the surface of the lake to be covered by a floating layer of sphagnum peat moss that is strong enough to talk on, creating what is called a "quaking bog". If you have never seen it, you should watch this video. Incredible!


Floating Islands
Ancient Greek myths as well as myths from other ancient cultures told stories of islands that would float from the middle of a lake to one edge of the lake, only to float all the way back to the middle of the lake again. At first these stories sounded like absolute fantasy, but it turns out that this weird phenomenon actually occurs in nature, thanks to sphagnum. If conditions are just right, such as a lake being too deep for sphagnum to successfully convert it into a bog, it is possible the floating sphagnum mat in a forming quaking bog to become separated from the edges of the lake and float freely. If the lake is deep enough, the free floating sphagnum mat will continue to grow until it is several feet thick, allowing for other plants to start to grow on top of it.

Such a natural floating island exists in Posta Fibreno, Italy. It is called "La Rota". A short scientific research article on this island of sphagnum is here.
LaRota.jpg
LaRota.jpg (213.8 KiB) Viewed 2948 times
Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 2.17.56 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 2.17.56 PM.png (1.15 MiB) Viewed 2948 times
In the picture "B" below, you can see scientists standing in the center of the island, cutting out a core of the island for testing. Picture "C" shows below shows the core, which shows what the island is made of: over 13 feet of layer after layer of sphagnum.
IslandPeat.png
IslandPeat.png (157.9 KiB) Viewed 2948 times
Carnivorous plants are cool, but they can't form floating islands. Maybe we should all have a little more appreciation for that stuff we are growing our carnivorous plants in?
Jagasian, Jagasian, Jagasian liked this
By riveraXVX
Posts:  1098
Joined:  Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:29 am
#310318
as I said in my private message also just wanted to mirror it here, your posts and info has been phenomenal. thank you for posting it.
riveraXVX liked this
By Jagasian
Posts:  191
Joined:  Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:16 am
#310321
Sphagnum is an ancient life form, so it lacks many of evolution's newer genetic inventions. Yes, sphagnum is a very successful genetic blueprint (it has worked for 600 million years so far), but it lacks the molecular structures used by newer land plants that enable them to perform faster forms of photosynthesis. In order for carbon dioxide to reach the chloroplasts in sphagnum, it must enter small pores in the surface of the plant and then the carbon dioxide gas must dissolve into the thin film of water that is held by the hyaline cells that are pressed up against the sphagnum's chloroplast carrying cells. This is a slow process compared to the one used by newer vascular plants. This is one of the main reasons for sphagnum's slow growth.

So let's talk about optimizing growing conditions for sphagnum to make them grow faster, but before jumping into the details, remember this: each sphagnum species has its own unique optimal growing conditions. The conditions that are optimal for one species may cause another species to grow much slower than usual... and may even kill that species. Generally I have found that getting the growing conditions off a little just causes the sphagnum to grow incredibly slow. Also, like any plant, if you change the growing conditions, the plant will first be shocked and will take around 2 weeks to adapt to the new conditions and start growing again. So try to keep the growing conditions from changing frequently or too abruptly.

Photoperiod
Photoperiod refers to the number of hours of light that a plant is grown under. In the wild, the photoperiod varies based off of the seasons and the distance from the equator. In many areas in the USA, during mid-winter, the photoperiod in the wild is under 10 hours of sunlight, and in the mid-summer it is near 16 hours of sunlight. Many sphagnum species grow very far from the equator and so the photoperiods they can experience are much more extreme. Nearly 24 hours of sunlight per day by mid-summer, and nearly 0 hours of sunlight per day by mid-winter in the far northern regions sphagnum grows in the wild. So what photoperiod can sphagnum be grown under to make it grow the fastest? It turns out that keeping sphagnum under 24 hours of light per day, every day of the year is the best way to grow sphagnum. More details can be found in this research article. Keep in mind that this research only tests a few sphagnum species and there are hundreds of species that have not been tested. There may be some sphagnum species that do not grow faster under 24 hours of light per day. I have personally found that 24 hours of light is the best. Just make sure to grow them under highly efficient LED lights to keep the electrical bill low.


Light Intensity & Temperature
How bright should the light be for growing sphagnum as fast as possible? What about the temperature? This varies quite a lot depending on the species. Most sphagnum species cannot handle full sunlight without sunburning, and even the species that can handle full sunlight, can only do so for a short period of time. There are a very few species that actually grow faster under full sunlight (fuscum and austinii). A very surprising finding is that almost every species of sphagnum grows faster under warm temperatures such as 85F. Yes, some species naturally grow in the wild in warm or hot tropical environments, but most sphagnum species grow far up north in areas that are much colder throughout the year than 85F. This is an extreme example of optimal growing conditions being radically different compared to the growing conditions in the wild. One important distinction is that when growing sphagnum at high temperatures, it is important to ensure that the humidity is very high, otherwise the sphagnum will dry-out. I have grown at 85F to 95F in an enclosed glass terrarium. The scientific details of optimal light intensity and temperature are here.

That is enough for now. Later, I will post about optimal water pH and how to fertilize live sphagnum using sugar water.
Jagasian, Jagasian liked this
By Jagasian
Posts:  191
Joined:  Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:16 am
#310381
Optimal Acidity
All species of sphagnum acidify themselves and the water they grow in. Sphagnum takes this to an extreme as a means of protecting itself from decay, but also because most plants prefer a pH of 6.5, which is very mildly acidic (battery acid has a pH of 1 and pure water has a pH of 7). If you want to maximize the growth rate of your sphagnum culture, it is important to get the water pH tuned to be more acidic. Research shows that the optimal pH varies by species. The most acidic species such as sphagnum fuscum, grow slower in pure water than they do in acidic water with a pH of 3.8. More details are in reference1, reference2, and reference3.


Is Sphagnum A Carnivorous Plant?
The most basic categorization of lifeforms is in terms of how they obtain matter and energy, the two resources essentially to all life. "Autotrophs" are organisms that create their own food, typically using photosynthesis, which is a process that captures carbon and light energy in a chemical form called sugar. Most life on earth derives from sugar because in that molecule is both matter (carbon) and energy (stored in chemical bonds). "Heterotrophs" are organisms that can't produce their own food, so they consume the food produced by another organism... or they simply eat parts of other organisms. Humans are heterotrophs, we eat other organisms to get our matter and energy. Most plants are autotrophs.
Auto-and_heterotrophs.png
Auto-and_heterotrophs.png (1.81 MiB) Viewed 2893 times
So what about carnivorous plants? They need light to perform photosynthesis. However, they can also eat animals to get some of the matter that they need... but carnivorous plants do not get their energy from what they eat. Carnivorous plants cannot live without light.

Sphagnum is a plant. It performs photosynthesis and so you may think that it is an autotroph, just like most other plants. In turns out that in the wild, living sphagnum ends up buried beneath layers of living and dead sphagnum, and yet somehow this buried sphagnum can live in completely darkness. How is this possible? It turns out that sphagnum is a mixotroph, that is, an organism that is both an autotroph (like plants) and a heterotroph (like animals). Sphagnum is capable of digesting and consuming sugars and proteins that come into contact with it or its nearby water. This allows sphagnum to survive buried in complete darkness, with no access to air or sunlight.

Sphagnum is more of a heterotroph than the venus flytrap because a venus flytrap still needs air and light to live. Wild sphagnum bogs can be cut or burned down to a layer of the bog that has been buried for years in complete darkness and the exposed adult sphagnum will immediately grow... it has stayed alive, largely by eating sugars that have dissolved in the acidic bog water.
F2.large.jpg
F2.large.jpg (101.93 KiB) Viewed 2893 times
The American Journal of Botany has a great article here that demonstrates that sphagnum is capable of living as a heterotroph. Through controlled scientific experiments, the article goes as far as to show that sphagnum can be made to grow 39 times faster by adding pure sugar to its water!

Does this mean sphagnum is a carnivorous plant? Not exactly, but sphagnum is like a carnivorous animal in that it is capable of eating food from other organisms. So technically the correct term is "heterotroph" and not "carnivore". Interesting stuff, and the applications to growing sphagnum are important. Why do sphagnum cultures seem to have explosive growth once the living sphagnum reaches a critical mass? This is likely because the individual sphagnum plants are sharing sugars with each other. When one sphagnum plant produces excess sugar, it transmits that excess sugar to plants that could grow faster if only they had more sugar. This means one sphagnum plant is functioning as an autotroph and the other as a heterotroph.

Later this week, I will post a formula for a do-it-yourself sphagnum fertilizer that you can spray onto your culture to ramp up its growth. You can make this fertilizer using ingredients available on Amazon.com
Jagasian, Jagasian, Jagasian and 1 others liked this
User avatar
By SFLguy
Posts:  1726
Joined:  Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:29 am
#312151
This is a really nice post, thanks for taking the time to write all this! Looking forward to seeing your recommendations for fertilizing soon!
By Leathal_Traps
Posts:  1310
Joined:  Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:27 am
#312728
Jagasian wrote:
Does this mean sphagnum is a carnivorous plant? Not exactly, but sphagnum is like a carnivorous animal in that it is capable of eating food from other organisms. So technically the correct term is "heterotroph" and not "carnivore". Interesting stuff, and the applications to growing sphagnum are important. Why do sphagnum cultures seem to have explosive growth once the living sphagnum reaches a critical mass? This is likely because the individual sphagnum plants are sharing sugars with each other. When one sphagnum plant produces excess sugar, it transmits that excess sugar to plants that could grow faster if only they had more sugar. This means one sphagnum plant is functioning as an autotroph and the other as a heterotroph.

Later this week, I will post a formula for a do-it-yourself sphagnum fertilizer that you can spray onto your culture to ramp up its growth. You can make this fertilizer using ingredients available on Amazon.com
If you have time could you please post your recipe? I'd also be interested in seeing your results with this fertilizer.
By boabab95
Posts:  6
Joined:  Fri Jun 17, 2011 9:18 pm
#314928
Some of the links don't work. Could you provide the citations to the papers so they can be found?
By FlyTrap Hunter
Posts:  761
Joined:  Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:05 am
#316143
Jagasian wrote:Optimal Acidity
All species of sphagnum acidify themselves and the water they grow in. Sphagnum takes this to an extreme as a means of protecting itself from decay, but also because most plants prefer a pH of 6.5, which is very mildly acidic (battery acid has a pH of 1 and pure water has a pH of 7). If you want to maximize the growth rate of your sphagnum culture, it is important to get the water pH tuned to be more acidic. Research shows that the optimal pH varies by species. The most acidic species such as sphagnum fuscum, grow slower in pure water than they do in acidic water with a pH of 3.8. More details are in reference1, reference2, and reference3.


Is Sphagnum A Carnivorous Plant?
The most basic categorization of lifeforms is in terms of how they obtain matter and energy, the two resources essentially to all life. "Autotrophs" are organisms that create their own food, typically using photosynthesis, which is a process that captures carbon and light energy in a chemical form called sugar. Most life on earth derives from sugar because in that molecule is both matter (carbon) and energy (stored in chemical bonds). "Heterotrophs" are organisms that can't produce their own food, so they consume the food produced by another organism... or they simply eat parts of other organisms. Humans are heterotrophs, we eat other organisms to get our matter and energy. Most plants are autotrophs.
Auto-and_heterotrophs.png
So what about carnivorous plants? They need light to perform photosynthesis. However, they can also eat animals to get some of the matter that they need... but carnivorous plants do not get their energy from what they eat. Carnivorous plants cannot live without light.

Sphagnum is a plant. It performs photosynthesis and so you may think that it is an autotroph, just like most other plants. In turns out that in the wild, living sphagnum ends up buried beneath layers of living and dead sphagnum, and yet somehow this buried sphagnum can live in completely darkness. How is this possible? It turns out that sphagnum is a mixotroph, that is, an organism that is both an autotroph (like plants) and a heterotroph (like animals). Sphagnum is capable of digesting and consuming sugars and proteins that come into contact with it or its nearby water. This allows sphagnum to survive buried in complete darkness, with no access to air or sunlight.

Sphagnum is more of a heterotroph than the venus flytrap because a venus flytrap still needs air and light to live. Wild sphagnum bogs can be cut or burned down to a layer of the bog that has been buried for years in complete darkness and the exposed adult sphagnum will immediately grow... it has stayed alive, largely by eating sugars that have dissolved in the acidic bog water.
F2.large.jpg
The American Journal of Botany has a great article here that demonstrates that sphagnum is capable of living as a heterotroph. Through controlled scientific experiments, the article goes as far as to show that sphagnum can be made to grow 39 times faster by adding pure sugar to its water!

Does this mean sphagnum is a carnivorous plant? Not exactly, but sphagnum is like a carnivorous animal in that it is capable of eating food from other organisms. So technically the correct term is "heterotroph" and not "carnivore". Interesting stuff, and the applications to growing sphagnum are important. Why do sphagnum cultures seem to have explosive growth once the living sphagnum reaches a critical mass? This is likely because the individual sphagnum plants are sharing sugars with each other. When one sphagnum plant produces excess sugar, it transmits that excess sugar to plants that could grow faster if only they had more sugar. This means one sphagnum plant is functioning as an autotroph and the other as a heterotroph.

Later this week, I will post a formula for a do-it-yourself sphagnum fertilizer that you can spray onto your culture to ramp up its growth. You can make this fertilizer using ingredients available on Amazon.com
I saw a spider harvesting live sphagnum sperm. It was sitting on top of the water and created a corral with a spider web and was pulling the sperm into it's corral. It kept spinning the corral in a circle. Image

Sent from my KYOCERA-C6742A using Tapatalk
By Jagasian
Posts:  191
Joined:  Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:16 am
#319536
Sorry, I got distracted. Here is the sphagnum food that you can spray your live sphagnum with to accelerate growth.

The mix is simple, it contains two simple sugars, 16 essential plant nutrients, and pure water. Note the nutrients are extremely diluted because sphagnum does not need nor like nutrient rich water. The other key ingredients are the sugars, which unlike other plants, sphagnum can eat directly in addition to make using photosynthesis.
Sphagnum food
Sphagnum food
AF0AB414-B0E4-42DE-9E41-C183CB061255.jpeg (191.51 KiB) Viewed 1939 times
I will link to online sources for the ingredients and tools necessary for making your own bottle of this mix, and I will also post step by step directions later.
By FlyTrap Hunter
Posts:  761
Joined:  Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:05 am
#319572
Jagasian wrote:Sorry, I got distracted. Here is the sphagnum food that you can spray your live sphagnum with to accelerate growth.

The mix is simple, it contains two simple sugars, 16 essential plant nutrients, and pure water. Note the nutrients are extremely diluted because sphagnum does not need nor like nutrient rich water. The other key ingredients are the sugars, which unlike other plants, sphagnum can eat directly in addition to make using photosynthesis.
AF0AB414-B0E4-42DE-9E41-C183CB061255.jpeg
I will link to online sources for the ingredients and tools necessary for making your own bottle of this mix, and I will also post step by step directions later.
Thank you so much... ! Talk about a cliff hanger... Image

Sent from my KYOCERA-C6742A using Tapatalk

SASE has been mailed!

Good morning

Sunset red sky in sunny Wales UK. I massively hype[…]

WTB Cephalotus

I have one cephalotus right know that is recoverin[…]

Trading for cuttings

Pm me so we can exchange addresses

Species guessing game

D. hamiltonii?

How tough are Capes, really?

Thankfully, no. Although it probably would have wo[…]

New species donated

Sorry, Dean. Just can't handle that ol' country t[…]

Support the community - Shop at FlytrapStore.com!