Often it’s the spring ephemerals – Trout Lily, Red Trillium, Dutchman’s Breeches – that catch our eye as we walk through the woods this time of year. But there are other, more modest flowering plants which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Sedges, often found growing near wetlands but also in woods, are one of these inconspicuous plants. Related to grasses and rushes, they are wind-pollinated, and have no need for large, showy petals in order to attract insects. As a result, it’s fairly easy to miss their flowers, some of which are in full bloom right now.
Male and female sedge flowers are typically found on the same plant. The arrangement of the flowers, or inflorescence, usually consists of a cluster of male flowers on the end of a spike (see photo) with female flowers located on separate spikes. A dissecting scope is necessary in order to identify most species of sedges, but an easy way to know it’s a sedge is to feel the shape of the plant’s stem – sedge stems are three-sided — triangular in cross-section (unlike rushes which are round, and grass stems which are hollow). Hence, the saying “Sedges have edges, rushes are round.”
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