Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - October 14, 2013

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Identifying native sedges
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

What's the best way to identify a specific sedge ?

ANSWER:

This is a really tough question.  Many plant experts venture no farther than confirming that a cross-section of the stem is triangular (all sedges) rather than round (grasses).  The problem is that there are so many species of sedges that are quite similar.  The main differences often are in the shape and appearance of the seeds and/or the arrangement of the seed clusters on the mature reproductive stems.  But even these properties are very similar in certain species, and sometimes the properties show significant variations depending on where the sedge is growing.

I am assuming that you are interested in the native sedges growing in the Houston area.  I would first go to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database and under the Combination Search enter Texas for the State, grass/grass like for the Habit , perennial for the Duration and moist for the Soil moisture.  Click on Submit and you will get a list of several sedge (Carex) species.  Here, I have done it for you! Unfortunately, there are no images for some of these to help you, but the description may be useful.  For more information after clicking on a particular species, look at the bottom of its Plant Database page for Additional Resources and click on the USDA site and/or on Google. You can find photos of most of the species there.  The "flowers" and seeds of the different species are fairly characteristic.  But bear in mind that the appearance of the fruiting structures changes with time, sometimes markedly, as the pollen is produced and then as the seeds progress to maturity.

In this way you can narrow your search to those species native to your area. For a listing of sedges throughout the entire U.S., including Texas, check out a Department of Agriculture web site devoted to these plants by scrolling down the list to the Carex species.

This hit-or-miss approach is about the best I can suggest.  For me, it has worked sometimes but not always.

Sedges are a good alternative ground cover in shady areas where grass does not grow well.  But you will want to avoid the very invasive non-native sedge, Cyperus rotundus, commonly called nutsedge, coco grass, or other names I am too polite to mention.  This sedge is almost universally present in lawns, where it invades adjacent flower beds and is nearly impossible to eliminate.

 

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Fringed sedge
Carex crinita

Bottlebrush sedge
Carex hystericina

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Grass for a Miniature Garden
July 18, 2013 - Please let me know what kind of grass is nice and short and tight for a miniature garden in a wooden box. I want to grow this grass in the box and I also want to know if I need to drill holes in the b...
view the full question and answer

Need native plant to stabilize 45 degree slope in Houston, TX.
June 06, 2012 - Can you recommend a native TX plant to be used to stabilize a 45 degree slope in the Houston area? Durability, maintenance and appearance should be considered. Thank You.
view the full question and answer

Need help fighting grass burs in La Grange, TX.
January 22, 2013 - I have 4 acres of wildflowers planted in my front yard. Unfortunately, grassburs have crept in & I need to control them with a pre-emergent. Will this keep the wildflowers from blooming? Also, would l...
view the full question and answer

Small plants for space between stones on a path
November 03, 2007 - We've just installed a stone path (unmortared) near our house and are looking for plants/seeds that would do well in the gaps between the flagstones. Naturally they need to be very low growing and h...
view the full question and answer

When should I plant bermuda grass seeds?
February 10, 2010 - When should I plant bermuda grass seeds?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.