Sphagnum austinii is usually easily recognized in the field by its strongly imbricate and clavate branches. It forms very dense and often tall hummocks with a distinct deep golden brown color. In contrast to the view stated by H. A. Crum (1997), this species has an ecology and distribution quite distinct from those of S. affine. Sphagnum affine is a minerotrophic species that does not even occur in the Pacific coast region, where S. austinii is quite prominent.
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