Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Eriophorum vaginatum L.
- Family: Sedge (Cyperaceae)
- Flowering: April-July
- Field Marks: The distinguishing characteristics of the cotton-grass are the solitary spikelet,
the tufted growth form, and the absence of conspicuous white borders on the scales. The
spikelets have fewer empty scales at the base than in E. spissum.
- Habitat: Bogs, fens.
- Habit: Densely tufted perennial with thickened rootstocks but without stolons.
- Stems: Upright, unbranched, somewhat rough near the tip, triangular, up to 2 feet tall.
- Leaves: Mostly near the base of the plant, elongated, rough to the touch; upper leaves
reduced to sheaths.
- Flowers: Several crowded into a solitary spikelet, the spikelet obovoid, up to 1 inch high;
scales narrowly ovate, pointed at the tip, dark brown, without a white border, the lower
8-12 scales empty.
- Sepals: 0.
- Petals: 0.
- Stamens: 3.
- Pistils: Ovary superior; styles 3-cleft.
- Fruits: Achenes narrowly obovoid, about 1/4 inch long, subtended by numerous white hairs.
- Notes: Gray's Manual considers this species and E. spissum the same. The achenes are
eaten by waterfowl.
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