The New Student's Reference Work/Peat

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Peat, a substance formed by the decomposition of plants in marshes and morasses; it is also sometimes described as a kind of soil formed by the remains of mosses and other marsh-plants. The remains of plants are often so well-preserved in peat that their species can be easily determined; but in the northern parts of the world it is chiefly formed from certain kinds or species of bog-moss. These mosses grow in very wet places, and throw out new shoots from their upper parts, while their lower parts are decaying and forming peat, so that shallow pools are gradually changed into bogs. Moist peat is a decided and powerful antiseptic, as is shown in the preservation not only of ancient trees, leaves and fruits but of animal bodies. It is claimed that in some instances human bodies have been found preserved in peat after the lapse of centuries. Peat is formed only in the colder regions of the world, as in warmer regions vegetable substances decompose too rapidly. Peat is largely used for fuel in Holland, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and other European countries, and efforts have been made to bring it into more general use by compressing its bulk, but although numerous machines have been invented and patented for this purpose, the enterprise has not yet proved a complete success.