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Eriophorum virginicum (Tawny cottongrass)
Cressler, Alan

Eriophorum virginicum

Eriophorum virginicum L.

Tawny Cottongrass

Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)


USDA Symbol: ERVI8

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

Spikelets in a dense, head-like, terminal cluster with tufts of tawny, copper-colored, or whitish, silky hairs elongating greatly as seeds mature; stem triangular toward top, round below.

There are numerous species of these mostly northern cotton- grasses (actually sedges), most with white instead of tan bristles. They are especially showy in open northern bogs, which from a distance may appear to be covered with snow. The genus name is from the Greek erion ("cotton" or "wool") and phoros ("bearing") and refers to the cottony nature of the fruiting head, as does the common name cottongrass.


From the Image Gallery

9 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Inflorescence: Spikelet
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: Up to about 4 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Dark brown to black

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Manitoba east to Newfoundland, south to Georgia, and northwest to Tennessee, Iowa, and Minnesota.
Native Habitat: Bogs and wet meadows.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Eriophorum virginicum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Eriophorum virginicum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Eriophorum virginicum


Record Modified: 2023-02-09
Research By: TWC Staff

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