The Sedge That Turns Heads

It’s hard to walk past Gray’s Sedge without pausing to look. It’s a bit other-worldly, and you might wonder whether the aliens are coming back to collect their pods.

All Carex have unusual inflorescences that are different from the showy, flowering plants we know. The seedheads (or spikelets) are made up of small fruits held in specialized sacs called perigynia. In Carex grayi, the perigynia are supersized and clustered together in a three-dimensional star shape.

Once the fruits ripen, the stars turns a toasty color that stands out from the bright green foliage. The male inflorescence is easy to miss—it’s a smaller, fuzzy spikelet held above each star. It often drops off before the fruit ripens.

The semi-evergreen foliage is shiny, bright green, and fairly wide for a sedge (1/2 to 3/4 inch).

Place it in moist areas or those that stay perpetually wet for a dense, tall groundcover. As a facultative wetland plant, it’s found most often in wetlands but also occurs in other, drier locations. The ability to tolerate wet and dry make it a good choice for rain gardens or bioretention projects. It’s especially suited for the bottom zones where the soil tends to stay wetter.

Gray’s Sedge grows in a clump but will move slowly via short rhizomes. It can reseed under suitable conditions, but is not aggressive. Being one of the more vigorous sedges, Gray’s Sedge will recover quickly from being cut back. It’s a fantastic filler that can compete with weeds in a rain garden or in constantly moist or wet areas.

The specific epithet in the name honors Asa Gray (1810-1888), a leading American botanist.

Get the full picture on Gray’s Sedge in our plant profile.

Find out more about rain gardens, bioswales, and other green infrastructure features on our Power of Grasses page.

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