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Peat areas are also found in New Zealand and Tasmania.
In the Southern Hemisphere, however, peat landscapes may contain many moss species other than Sphagnum.
This is often necessary when dealing with very sandy soil, or plants that need increased or steady moisture content to flourish.
As with many other mosses, Sphagnum species disperse spores through the wind.
Sphagnum taxonomy has been very contentious since the early 1900s; most species require microscopic dissection to be identified.
In the field, most Sphagnum species can be identified to one of four major sections of the genus—classification and descriptions follow Andrus 2007 (Flora North America): All but two species normally identified as Sphagnum reside in one clade; two other species have recently been separated into new families within the Sphagnales reflecting an ancestral relationship with the Tasmanian endemic Ambuchanania and long phylogenetic distance to the rest of Sphagnum.
Soon afterwards the protonema develops buds and these differentiate into its characteristic, erect, leafy, branched gametophyte with chlorophyllose cells and hyaline cells.
This stage dominates the environment where Sphagnum grows, obliterating and burying the protonema and eventually building up into layers of dead moss called peat.
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The sporophyte is relatively short-lived, and consists almost entirely of a shiny green, spherical spore capsule that becomes black with spores.