Sporophytes are not common in Sphagnum bartlettianum. Confusion is most likely with S. rubellum, with which it frequently co-occurs in the northern part of its range. The ecology is poorly understood due to taxonomic confusion with S. rubellum; the latter species, however, is more typical of boreal poor fens and bogs. Sphagnum bartlettianum has a narrower stem leaf with a distinctly pointed and even apiculate tip, whereas the stem leaf on S. rubellum is quite rounded. The branch leaves of S. bartlettianum are also narrower than those of S. rubellum and are never subsecund as in the latter. Sphagnum quinquefarium has shorter and wider stem leaves as well as often having 3 spreading branches per fascicle. Sphagnum wilfii can appear quite similar and it does overlap the range of S. bartlettianum in coastal British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Sphagnum wilfii has a stem leaf that is triangular to triangular-lingulate in contrast to the narrowly lingulate-triangular stem leaf of S. bartlettianum.
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