As you read this, forceful explosions are rocking the planet, covering it in mushroom clouds. Thankfully, nuclear winter isn’t going to befall us quite yet. These explosions are caused by biological cannons rather than man-made bombs and the clouds they produce are mere millimetres high. They are the means by which peat mosses disperse their spores.
There are over 285 species of peat moss, all belonging to the genus Sphagnum. They are among the most common plants in the world, growing in the cold, moist parts of the Earth and covering about 1% of its land. They rely on the wind to disperse their spores and all of them face a similar problem. They grow in flat mats, which hug the ground at a level where the air is relatively still. Ideally, they need to get their spores into the ‘turbulent boundary layer’ – a zone up to 10cm off the ground, where swirls of air and sideways currents can carry the spores over long distances.