Peatlands are also home to bog asphodel, common butterwort, cuckooflower, marsh violet, sundews, marsh cinquefoil and marsh willowherb, and rare sedges. Some of these fascinating plants are carnivorous. Sundews have hundreds of pin-shaped tentacles that wrap sticky digestive juices round their prey, while butterworts trap insects using the strongest glue known in nature.
Because of a lack of nutrients, everything in a peat bog grows slowly. Sphagnum moss, for example, will grow just 2.5cm in a century.
We need to protect these precious landscapes that take so very long to form. But peatlands continue to be decimated in Britain, Ireland and beyond.
Peat bogs are an important feature of the British Isles. We have a particular responsibility for their management and protection because the UK is amongst the top 10 nations of the world in terms of its total peatland area.
In the UK, we have two main types of peatland habitats – lowland raised bog and blanket bog Blanket bogs and lowland raised bogs are both globally threatened.
Together these two types of peat bog cover around 10% of Britain's land area, with half of this being in Scotland. Because they are fed by rainwater and snowmelt, rather than ground water, both habitats are highly unusual.
The UK has between 9-15% of Europe's peatland area, and about 13% of the world's blanket bog, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies as one of the world's rarest habitats.
Although the UK is home to so much of the world's rare blanket peat bog – and although peatlands are the UK's single most important terrestrial carbon store – years of damage by drainage, extraction, burning and overgrazing have left 80% of our remaining peatlands in poor condition.
One major cause of damage is drainage – to dry them out for sheep grazing, grouse shooting or plantations of trees. This involves channels being cut into the peat to move rainwater off the land.
Burning, air pollution and the actual grazing by sheep cause more damage. Peat is also burnt for fuel, and huge amounts are used for mushroom growing.