RSPB Trainee Ecologist, David Freeman, tells us more about his work at Forsinard Flows.

In search of the Golden Bog Moss

Sphagnum pulchrum

Before arriving at Forsinard I had already decide to try to use some of my spare time constructively by improving my knowledge of the Sphagnum Mosses, commonly known as the Bog Mosses.

When most people think of bog mosses I’m sure the image that springs to mind is of something dank and snot green. While it is true, some species do fit this description, it is far from the whole truth. For example, there is the deep glittering crimson of Sphagnum warnstorfii, Sphagnum caplliifolium can have the colouring of raspberry ripple ice cream and Sphagnum teres has a head of striking ginger, however there is one bog moss in particular that stands out from the crowd, the golden bog moss Sphagnum pulchrum. This is a relatively rare moss in the UK and as well as being distinctively gold in colour it is also remarkably symmetrical in structure. Looking at this moss close up reminds me of 1920’s art deco and geometric shapes.

I decided to dedicate a surprisingly bright and warm March weekend to search for a range of intriguing mosses, all the time keeping an eye out for S.pulchrum. Trekking across an expanse of undulating moorland, it was not long before I came across area peppered with icy lochans. These pools had a surprisingly diverse moss flora and on the edge of one of these pools I spotted S.pulchrum. It was not the distinctive golden sheen of the plant, which first grabbed my attention, but rather the distinctly ordered structure setting it apart from the surrounding vegetation. I was ecstatic to say the least.

This was a fantastic find and certainly one of the highlights of the weekend. I believe my exeprience at Forsinard proves the best way to learn about any plant or animal is to go out and start looking for them. Over those couple of days, utilising the samples I had collected, I was able to make a real improvement on my understanding of the bog mosses. This was just as well as that Monday I was delighted to be offered the position of Trainee Ecologist at RSPB Scotland's HQ, focussing on mosses and liverworts.

Photo by Sharon Pilkington.