- Eriophorum, from the Greek, 'erion
(erion), "wool", and forew
(phoreo), "to bring or carry"; hence, "wool bearing"
- vaginatum, from the Latin vagina, "a covering, sheath",
and atus, "possessive of or likeness of something"; hence, "sheathed"
- Common Name, from
- Other common names include: Cottonsedge, Cottongrass, Tussock Cottongrass,
Hare's Tail, Hare's-tail Grass, Hare's-tail Cottongrass, Hares-tail
Rush, Single-headed Cottongrass, Tuvull, Hadd, Slidstarr, Tuvdun,
Tuv-ängsull (Swe), Torvull (Nor), Tue-Kæruld
(Dan), Tupasvilla (Fin), Scheiden-Wollgras (Ger), Hüvelyes
gyapjúsás (Hun), Sìoda Monaidh (Gaelic),
Tupp-villpea, mustapea, valgepea, sootups, ilvespea (Est), Páperník
- Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
- Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
- Class Liliopsida, the Monocotyledons
- Subclass Commelinidae
- Order Cyperales
- Family Cyperaceae, the Sedges
- Genus Eriophorum, the Cotton Sedges
- Taxonomic Serial Number: 40104
- Also known as Eriophorum spissum, Eriophorum callitrix,
- A native, tussock-forming sedge.
- ¼, ½, ¾, º, é
- Leaves acaulescent; scales tightly compacted. Foliage
dies back each winter, but basal portions of leaves and stems remain
- Stem 8"-28" long and sheathed to half its length.
- Roots densely fibrous, dying back to rootstocks each
winter. The roots hydrolyze and absorb organic phosphorus compounds
from the soil, providing up to 69% of the plant's phosphorus requirement.
- Flower a densely tufted cyme of multiflowered spikelets.
- Ovary superior (within blossom) inferior (below flower)
- Fruit an achene.
- Tussocks composed of 300-600 individual tillers. They are elevated
above ground level. Individual tillers live less than 8 years;
estimated age of mature tussocks ranges from 122 to 187 years.
- Unmistakable in bloom as a Cotton Sedge.
- Identifiable as
- Distinguished from
- Field Marks
- Circumboreal; Alaska to Labrador and south to Minnesota, Wisconsin,
Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
- Tundra bogs, muskegs, and pockets of boreal forest.
- Parent materials of supporting soils include polymictic conglomerate,
lithic wacke, siltstone, and shale overlain by frozen glacial till and
sand or sandy loam. Mineral soil is usually covered by an up to 16"
thick horizon of poorly decomposed peat. The superficial surface layer
may be a hepatic, moss, or lichen mat. Soils are well to poorly drained,
low in nutrients, and acidic.
- Colonizes disturbed sites including burns. Tussock communities are
stable for many decades, but are eventually replaced in the absence
of disturbance. In the Lake States, it is replaced by Tamarack (Larix
laricina) and Red Pine (Pinus
resinosa). Also grows in open conifer swamps dominated by Black
Spruce (Picea mariana) and/or
Tamarack (Larix laricina).
- Survives fire because its growing points are insulated by tightly
bunched dead and live tillers, stem sheaths, and scales. The elevated
position of tussocks increases resistance to ground fire. Fire provides
an opportunity for seedling establishment. Since sheathed cottonsedge
has both shallowly and deeply buried seed, some viable seed is available
regardless of depth of burn into the peat horizon. Burned peat is an
ideal seedbed. Light- to moderate-severity fire generally top-kills
sheathed cottonsedge. Severe fire may kill tussocks Sheathed cottonsedge
sprouts from burned tillers and establishes from seed following fire.
Flower and tiller production increase after top-kill.
- Flower buds are formed the year prior to flowering.
- Trees: Tamarack (Larix
laricina), Black Spruce (Picea
mariana), Red Pine (Pinus
- Shrubs: Bog Rosemary (Andromeda
glaucophylla), Bog Birch (Betula
pumila), Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne
calyculata), Bog Laurel (Kalmia
- Herbs: Few-Seeded Sedge (Carex oligosperma)
- Ground Covers: Sphagnum mosses
- Mammals: Grazed by sheep, cattle, lemmings, ground squirrels,
caribou, and geese. Caribou graze it year-round; it may form a considerable
portion of their diet in some areas.
- Birds: Open muskeg-sheathed cottonsedge tussock areas in the
Lake States are preferred habitat of sharp-tailed grouse. Waterfowl
use these areas as breeding grounds
- Although the cottony heads were collected in parts of Scotland to
be used for wound dressings during the First World War, the fibres are
too short to be of any commercial use.
- Reproduces sexually by seed and vegetatively by tillering.
- Seeds are first produced at age 3 and are dispersed by wind. Flower
and seed production increase with disturbance. Seeds readily germinate
after overwintering when exposed to light and warm temperatures. Live
mosses or liverworts, dead leaves, and dead peat are favorable seedbeds.
- Seedling establishment is best on disturbed sites; rare in mature
tussock communities. Seedling growth is largely controlled by nutrient
availability and is most rapid after fire has released nutrients into
- Produces tillers at the rate of one to three per year, with tillering
increasing in response to disturbance. Tillers die after flowering but
decompose slowly due to compaction and low temperature.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 2 (average minimum annual temperature -50ºF)
- Cultural Requirements
- Size 12"-18"W x 12"-18"H
- Growth rate
- Good for
- Available by mail order from specialty suppliers or at local nurseries
Last updated on
26 February, 2004