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Dr. W. PH. Schimper: The book Versuch einer Entwicklungs-Geschichte der Torfmoose (Sphagnum) und einer Monographie der in Europa vorkommenden Arten dieser Gattung (An Attempt at a History of the Development of Sphagnum Mosses and a Monograph of the Species of this Genus Occurring in Europe), Stuttgart 1858, 96 pages with 27 copperplates.

Literature on peatland, which dates from the late 17th century, focused not only on the question of an efficient peat production method but also on the origins of the peatlands. There were various theories about this, but a conclusive scientific explanation with a broad consensus remained elusive. We now know that sphagnum, a genus of mosses, is characteristic of peat uplands and one of the most important peat-building plants. Due to the anatomic structure of their cells they act like a sponge. This enables them to absorb up to 30 times their dry weight in water, and then slowly release it back into the environment. These little plants grow steadily, while the part at the bottom dies off due to the absence of light and turns into peat. Peat moss therefore plays an indispensable role in the growth of peat uplands. A great deal of research over a long period of time led to the current state of scientific knowledge. It was only in the course of the 19th century, when botany began to develop as a branch of biology, that the plant cover of the peatlands could be adequately researched, bringing us to our present-day understanding.


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