Cyperaceae . . . . . . . . Sedges

Many are marsh plants and usually have +/-triangular stems or leaves in three ranks or V-shaped in section; flowers non-descript brownish/greenish without obvious 'petals' (what they have are called 'tepals') - often have male and female flowers distinct.

Choose on plant form:

N.B. Rarer mountain plants shown separately at bottom of each group

Can confuse round-stemmed sedges with rushes (Juncaceae):

Sedges with hairy leaves

Note if lvs ONLY hairy on edges go to Woodrushes :

Otherwise choose from:
Carex hirta
Carex hirta
Carex pallescens
Carex pallescens

Dense terminal spike (of 1-many similar spikelets), sometimes with round stems

Trichophorum germanicum
Eleogiton fluitans

Schoenus ferrugineus
Carex dioica
Blysmus rufus
Blysmus compressus

Schoenus nigricans

Rhynchospora alba
Carex maritima
Carex ornithopoda
Carex chordorrhiza

Mountain plants with dense terminal spike - (often rather local)

C. rupestris
C. simpliuscula
C. lachenalii

But see also other possibilities for apparently tubular leaves/stems:

2 or more difft. spikes with apical male (usually thinner)

Choose from:
Small plants often <15cm         Female (lower) spikes c. spherical         Female spikes elongated        Mountain plants

Small plants (< c 15-25cm):

C. pauciflora
C. pulicaris
C. caryophyllea
C. ericetorum

C. ornithopoda
C. pilulifera
C. capillaris
C. limosa

Female (lower) spikes c. spherical (Length < 2x width):

Yellow sedges:
C. viridula
C. extensa
C. demissa
C. lepidocarpa

C. pilulifera
C. saxatilis
C. hostiana
C. pallescens

Female spikes elongated (length > 2x width):

C. distans
C. hostiana
C. nigra
C. laevigata

C. binervis
C. flacca
C. punctata
C. sylvatica

C. rostrata
C. vesicaria
C. aquatilis
C. recta

C. acutiformis
C. riparia
C. acuta
C. elata

C. strigosa
C. pendula
C. pseudocyperus

Mountain plants with different spikes (often rather local)

C. bigelowii
C. capillaris
C. limosa
C. rariflora

C. saxatilis
C. vaginata
C. x grahamii

2 or more similar spikes (sometimes apparently lumped into single larger one)

Spikes in umbels (mostly branching from a point)

Bolboschoenus maritimus
Schoenoplectus lacustris
Schoenoplectus tabernaemonti

Scirpus sylvaticus
Cyperus eragrostis
Cyperus longus
Cyperus fuscus

Spikes on branched branches

Cladium mariscus
Carex paniculata

Spikes arranged along the stem

C. remota
C. divulsa
C. canescens
C. muricata

Blysmus rufus
C. diandra
C. arenaria
C. disticha

C. echinata
C. otrubae
C. paniculata
C. leporina(ovalis)

NB If stems not triangular also try other cylindrical leaves

Mountain plants - often rather local (spikes similar)

C. atrata
C. simpliuscula
C. lachenalii
C. norvegica

C. rupestris

Blysmus . . . . Flat-sedge

Blysmus compressus . . . . Flat-sedge

Very flattened inflorescence (10-25 spikelets); in wet meadows on Limestone, esp. in N En

Blysmus rufus . . . Saltmarsh Flat-sedge

In saltmarshes, Sc (esp. NW), N En and N Ire, with rather flattened inflorescence but <10 spikelets

Bolboschoenus . . . . Sea Club-rush

Bolboschoenus maritimus . . . Sea Club-rush

Common in muddy estuaries by the sea; sharply three angled stem

Similar, but with round stems are :

Carex . . . . Sedges

Well over 70 spp. are recognised in the BI; only a representative selection are shown here.
For a key see: Key to sedges

Carex acuta . . . Slender Tufted-sedge

Ligule pointed, longer than wide, basal lf sheaths whitish; locally frequent in BI to S Sc

Carex acutiformis . . . Lesser Pond-sedge

Sharply angled stem, lvs 7-10 mm wide, ligule pointed (1-2 cm), basal lf sheaths redish; 2-3 male spikes at top of stem; common (exc. N Sc) marshes, wet meadows and by ponds and streams (compare C. riparia)

Carex aquatilis . . . . Water-sedge

Mountain lakes; ligule c. 10 mm; bluntly 3-sided stems (c.f. C. riparia); female spikes narrow below

Carex arenaria . . . Sand Sedge

Creeping with plants characterstically aligned along rhizomes on sand dunes; lvs as long as flowers; common around the coasts of BI

Carex atrata . . . Black Alpine-sedge

Local on mountains above 720 m

Carex bigelowii . . . Stiff Sedge

Usually at high altitude on mountains; stiff, sharp stem, reddish brown leaf sheaths

Carex binervis . . . Green-ribbed Sedge

To 1.2 m; dense tufts with dead red-brown lvs around base; female spikes separated; Utricle with green lines down each side; common throughout BI esp. N & W
c.f. also C. hostiana

Carex canescens . . . White Sedge (was C. curta)

Widespread in acid bogs, esp. in N Br and N Ire

Carex capillaris . . . Hair Sedge

Local on mountains in N En and Sc

Carex caryophyllea . . . Spring Sedge

Note fat male spike; frequent on damp grasslands throughout BI

See also the rare C. ericetorum (Rare Spring-sedge) with dark, rounded glumes

Carex chordorrhiza . . . String Sedge

Rare - primarily Insh Marshes

Carex diandra . . . Lesser Tussock-sedge

Base-rich mires Ire, in Br esp. Sc and N En, S to Anglsea and E Anglia; creeping with fairly dense heads. [C. divisa (Divided Sedge) is similar but with long lower bract; by coasts in SE En]

Carex dioica . . . Dioecious Dedge

Note male and female plants different; in upland bogs N from N Wa

Carex distans . . . Distant Sedge

To 1m; by coasts around BI

Carex disticha . . . Brown Sedge

Leaf sheaths greenish on side opp. to blade (cf. C. arenaria); scattered thro' BI, tho' local in N Sc & SW En

Carex divulsa . . . Grey Sedge

Widespread in dry woodland S of Br and Ire (local N of Manchester); tufted; spikes separated by >2cm; v. short bracts

Carex echinata . . . Star Sedge

Common in wet places

Carex elata . . . Tufted Sedge

Sharply triangular stem, female glumes have rounded tips (cf C. acuta); In alkaline fens and ditches, primarily in C Ire and C & E En, very local elsewhere

Carex ericetorum . . . Rare Spring-sedge

Similar to C. caryophyllea but with dark, rounded glumes; v. local on calcareous grass from Westmoreland to E Anglia

Carex extensa . . . Long-bracted Sedge

Freqent round coasts, close to sea; lvs deeply channelled and darker green than Yellow-sedges; fruits with short beak (cf Yellow-sedges)

Compare Yellow-sedges

Carex flacca . . . Glaucous Sedge

Probably the commonest sedge; often looks 'floppy'; blueish or glaucous leaves (flat leaf tips - c.f. C. panicea); fruit minutely hairy/warty

Carex flava . . . . Yellow-sedge group

Whether these are separated into different spp. depends on the authority. Generally paler than Long-bracted sedge. Includes C. flava (Large Yellow-sedge - v. rare), and C. demissa (Common Yellow-sedge), C. lepidocarpa (Long-stalked Yellow-sedge) and C. viridula (Small-fruited Yellow-sedge) (the last 3 often named as subspp. of C. viridula)

Carex demissa . . . Common Yellow-sedge

Stems often equals lvs, bracts broad, often with single female spike below the main group, male spike with short stalk; common except on chalk of SE

Carex lepidocarpa . . . Long-stalked Yellow-sedge

Base-rich fens and flushes throughout BI, esp. in N and in Ire; male spike clearly stalked, lvs c. 1/2 length of stem

Carex viridula (was C. oederi; C. serotina). . . Small-fruited Yellow-sedge

A small plant often <20cm with unstalked male and female parts all together, lvs longer than flower shoots, bracts >flowers; fruits <3mm

Carex hirta . . . Hairy Sedge

Hairy fruits, leaves and stems; widespread

Carex hostiana . . . Tawny Sedge

To 65 cm; lvs yellow-green, narrowing rapidly to 3-sided tip; long beak to fruit (c.f. also C. binervis, and C. distans)

Carex lachenalii . . . Hare's-foot Sedge

A very local mountain plant in Sc

Carex laevigata . . . Smooth-stalked Sedge

Similar to C. binervis; has leaves 6-10 mm wide and sharp (not rounded) ligule; common in S & W Br

Carex leporina (ex. C. ovalis). . . Oval Sedge

Common in N & W

Carex limosa . . . Bog Sedge

Often <35cm with stalked male and hanging female parts (similar to C. rariflora but at lower altitudes); bogs in N & W Sc, Wa, En and Ire

Carex maritima . . . Curved Sedge

A rare plant of coasts of NE Sc

Carex muricata . . . Prickly Sedge

Common in S Br (N to C Sc) and Ire; tussocks in dry grassland; fruits < 3.5 mm; spikes nearly touching (c.f. the closely related C. divulsa). See also the similar Spiked Sedge (C. spicata) which has long acute ligule and long beak to fruit; frequent in S Br

Carex nigra . . . Common Sedge

As the name suggests: a very common sedge throughout the BI; has only 2 stigmas

Carex norvegica . . . . Close-headed Alpine-sedge

A very local plant of damp mountain ledges in C Sc. (pic 2 from T.Loizou)

Carex ornithopoda . . . . Bird's-foot Sedge

A very local small plant of well drained soils on limestone esp. in Cumbria and region

Carex otrubae . . . False Fox-sedge

Sharply angled stem >2 mm wide; around the coasts of BI

Carex pallescens . . . Pale Sedge

Hairy and pale leaves; widely distributed in damp grassland and by streams

Carex panicea . . . Carnation Sedge

Characteristic blue-green leaves (N.B. leaf tips 3-sided, and rather loose female spikes - c.f. C. flacca); common in N & W esp. on acid bogs etc.

Carex paniculata . . . Greater Tussock-sedge

A large tussock sedge to 1.5 m tall; fruits with wings and ligule straight across (arrows); by lakes, streams and marshes throughout BI

Carex pauciflora . . . Few-flowered Sedge

Frequent in C & N Sc, less so further S

Carex pendula . . . Pendulous Sedge

Rich soils in damp woods esp. in S, though a garden escape throughout BI

Carex pilulifera . . . Pill Sedge

A low-growing tufted sedge, with rough fruits; common throughout BI on sandy or peaty grassland

Carex pseudocyperus . . . Hop Sedge

Mostly in lowland En

Carex pulicaris . . . Flea Sedge

Mostly in N & W

Carex punctata . . . Dotted Sedge

An uncommon coastal plant of CI, S & W Br and Ire; fruits with minute red dots, stick out at c.right angle

Carex recta . . . . Estuarine Sedge

A rare estuarine plant of NE Sc, especially the Dornoch firth; the long tip to the lower female glumes (shown) is characteristic

Carex rariflora . . . . Mountain Bog-sedge

A small plant often <20cm with stalked male and hanging female parts (similar to C. limosa and C. magellanica); rare at high altitude in C Sc highlands

Carex remota . . . Remote Sedge

Common in wet woodland exc. N Sc; note long lf-like bracts

Carex riparia . . . Great Pond-sedge

Very sharply triangular stem; lvs to 2 cm wide with rounded ligule; spikes +/- sessile; 4-6 male spikes at tip; common at water's edge in En, Wa and SW Ire (compare C. acutiformis)

Carex rostrata . . . Bottle Sedge

Common in N & W but local elsewhere; similar to C. vesicaria but has greyish leaves, lower spikes hardly stalked, blunt ligules, fruits narrow

Carex rupestris . . . . Rock Sedge

Characteristic curled (pigs' tails) leaves; very local on base-rich mountains in C & NW highlands of Sc

Carex saxatilis . . . Russet Sedge

Local on mountains above c.750 m in N & W Sc

Carex simpliuscula (=Kobresia simpliuscula) . . . . False Sedge

Local in mountains of C Sc

Carex spicata . . . Spiked Sedge

Distinguished from C. muricata by the long acute ligule and fruits > 4 mm; damp neutral grassland on heavy soils, frequent in En, scattered elsewhere

Carex strigosa . . . Thin-spiked Wood-sedge

Shady woodland; Locally frequent in S En and in Ire, N to N En; lvs 6-10mm wide; female heads +/-upright on short stalks

Carex sylvatica . . . Wood-sedge

Shady woodland; rounded ligule and leaves 3-6mm wide; female heads drooping on long stalks

Carex vaginata . . . Sheathed Sedge

Local above 600m in S & C Sc

Carex vesicaria . . . Bladder Sedge

Marshes throughout BI; similar to C. rostrata but has yellow-green leaves, triangular ligule, sharply-angled stem and long-stalked spikelets

Carex x grahamii . . . Mountain Bladder-sedge

Very local on damp mountain ledges in C Sc

Carex x limula . . . Hybrid between C. aquatilis and C. bigelowii

Very local Sc highlands

Note that there also other hybrids, esp. of C. nigra

Cladium . . . . Great Fen-sedge

Cladium mariscus . . . Great Fen-sedge

Locally common in base-rich fens, scattered throughout the BI but mostly in W Ire and W Sc, only in E Anglia in the E

Cyperus . . . . Galingales

Cyperus eragrostis . . . Pale Galingale

Scattered in Ire and S Br

Cyperus longus . . . Galingale

Locally common in wet areas in S En and CI

Cyperus fuscus . . . Brown Galingale

Rare on bare mud in a few locations in CI and S En

Two other cultivated spp. can persist in the wild

Cyperus involucratus (or Cyperus alternifolius subsp. flabelliformis) . . . Umbrella Papyrus

Established locally around London, in the SW and Jersey

Cyperus papyrus . . . Papyrus

Can escape and persist in water for a short time

Eleocharis . . . . Spike-rushes

E. multicaulis
E. palustris
E. quinqueflora
E. uniglumis

Cf. also Trichophorum
also the rare spp.:
E. mamillata on R

Eleocharis acicularis . . . Needle Spike-rush

Scattered in pond/lake margins thro' Br & Ire

Underwater can look v. similar to Pilularia which has no lf sheaths

Eleocharis multicaulis . . . Many-stemmed Spike-rush

Acid bogs throughout BI, esp. in W; lowest glume <1/4 length of spikelet

Eleocharis palustris . . . Common Spike-rush

Common in marshes, and wet areas; has more than 20 vascular bundles in the stem (appear as ridges on dry stem)

Eleocharis mamillata ssp. austriaca . . . . Northern Spike-rush

This is a very rare plant of NW En, found e.g. in Ribblehead quarry - has < 20 vascular bundles in the rather fragile stem (appear as ridges on dry stem). The RH pic compares flowering heads of E. palustris and E. mamillata:

Eleocharis quinqueflora . . . Few-flowered Spike-rush

Loosely tufted with lowest glume >1/2 length of spikelet and +/- encircling spikelet; throughout BI, esp NW

Eleocharis uniglumis . . . Slender Spike-rush

Widespread but not common in wet (esp. brackish) areas, lowest glume (arrow) nearly encircling spikelet

Other sp. include the rather small E. acicularis (Needle Spike-rush) (on wet fresh-water shores - to 10 cm with 4-angled stems) and the rare <8cm Dwarf Spike-rush (E. parvula)

See also club-rushes (Isolepis):

Eleogiton . . . . Floating Club-rush

Eleogiton fluitans . . . Floating Club-rush

On acid streams and pools, mostly in N

Can confuse with the aquatic form of J. bulbosus

Eriophorum . . . . Cottongrass

Mostly common in bogs. Another sp., Eriophorum gracile (Slender Cottongrass) with v. narrow lvs, is mostly only found in W Ire

Eriophorum vaginatum . . . Hare's-tail Cottongrass

Has only single flower head and expanded sheath below flower

Eriophorum angustifolium . . . Common Cottongrass

Stems clearly angled, leaves V-shaped

Eriophorum latifolium . . . Broad-leaved Cottongrass

Much less common than E. angustifolium; note broader leaf shape (narrowed at tip); leaves flat and stems nearly round - see also 4th pic.

Isolepis . . . . Bristle Club-rush

Densely tufted short plants (8-15 cm) with v. short leaves from base only

Isolepis setacea . . . Bristle Club-rush

Common throughout BI; Main bract significantly longer than flower heads - stem-like

Isolepis cernua . . . Slender Club-rush

Ire and W coast of Br

Rhynchospora . . . . White Beak-sedge

Rhynchospora alba . . . White Beak-sedge

Widespread in N & W, but not in C & E En and E Sc

Schoenoplectus . . . . Club-rush

Round stemmed sedges (2 v rare spp. have triangular stems)

Schoenoplectus lacustris . . . Club-rush or (Bulrush)

Generally have three stigmas; common in shallow water throughout BI

Schoenoplectus tabernaemonti . . . Grey Club-rush

These have 2 stigmas and tiny (use lens) dots on glume (cf. S. lacustris); common in marshes mostly near the sea

Similar, but with triangular stems are : Bolboschoenus

See also Scirpus sylvaticus

Schoenus . . . . Bog-rushes

Schoenus ferrugineus . . . Brown Bog-rush

Very rare - only known in c.4 sites in Perthshire:

Schoenus nigricans . . . Black Bog-rush

Locally frequent in Bogs and damp peaty places in N & W of BI, more scattered elsewhere

Scirpus . . . . Club-rushes

Scirpus sylvaticus . . . . Wood Club-rush

Rather local on streamsides and woodland throughout BI exc. N Sc

Trichophorum . . . . Deergrasses

Trichophorum germanicum . . . Deergrass

Common in suitable bogs -stems c.35cm; spikelets with 8-20 flowers; also uppermost leaf sheath with oval opening and leaf blade c.3X as long as opening (pic3)

The more local Northern Deergrass (T. cespitosum) is smaller (<25cm); spikelets with fewer (3-10) flowers (and few small black fruits in July); also uppermost leaf sheath with round opening and leaf blade 5-10X as long as opening; also hybrid (which sets no fruits in July) (see