Sphagnum Moss: A plant unique to Wisconsin

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(WKOW) — The marshes of west central Wisconsin are prime for growing long fibered sphagnum moss; a perennial plant with unique water retention and anti-bacterial attributes.

Mosser Lee Company harvests Sphagnum Moss; a renewable resource that grows back in the same bogs every 5-7 years.

“What’s critically important to marsh habitat is to leave the marsh, kind of, the way we found it. And we have to have equipment that will not destroy it,” David Epstein, the owner of Mosser Lee Company said.

Sphagnum Moss is a prehistoric plant that was left here when the glaciers passed through leaving a lake near central Wisconsin. The moss survived under the frozen lake for thousands of years. Now it’s a unique cash crop for Wisconsin. No other state produces Sphagnum commercially in the nation.

“It grows where wild cranberries grow. These are wild cranberries and native cranberries. These were here long before the cranberry marshes came to the state of Wisconsin,” Epstein said.

Because of its abilities to both absorb and hold 20 times its weight in water and repel bacteria, long-fibered sphagnum moss has been heralded by horticulturists as the best solution to several basic gardening problems.

“You might see it in hanging baskets. It’s one of its primary uses is to line a hanging basket. It’s also used for seed starting, we grind it up and use it as seed starting, a great seed starter,” Epstein said.

Sphagnum replaces itself after harvest and is ready to be pulled again every three years. Harvest seasons run from spring until marshes freeze in the fall. Over 300,000 bales are pulled annually for shipment all over the world.

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