Eriophorum vaginatum L.

tussock cottongrass, tussock cottonsedge

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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At Concord

The subspecies in Concord is ssp. spissum.

Facts About

Tussock cottonsedge has a circumboreal distribution and is very abundant in Canada and Alaska. In New England it is found in bogs, meadows and alpine tundra. In the far north, tussock cottonsedge forms a large part of the diet of caribou.

Habitat

Alpine or subalpine zones, bogs, meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Stem shape in cross-section
  • the stem is roughly triangular in cross-section
  • the stem is round or oval in cross-section
Leaf blade width
0–10 mm
Leaf blade cross-section
the leaf blade is elliptic or circular in cross-section
Inflorescence position
the inflorescence is at the tip of the plant
Inflorescence branching
the inflorescence is on one or more stems with no branches
Fruit type (general)
  • the fruit is like a seed, and surrounded by hairs
  • the fruit is like a seed, and surrounded by scales
Fruit length
1.9–3.5 mm
Leaf position on plant
the attachment points of all the leaves are at or near the base of the plant
Perianth composition
there are bristles attached at the base of the achene
Fruit cross-section
the fruit is triangular to terete (circular) in cross-section
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    1–3 mm
    Floral bristle color
    the bristles are white
    Floral bristle number
    8 or more
    Floral bristle relative length
    the bristles are longer than the achene
    Floral bristles
    the bristles are straight or slightly curved
    Floral scale hairs
    there are no hairs on the floral scales
    Floral scale length
    5–10 mm
    Floral scale shape
    • the floral scales are lanceolate (widest below the middle, and tapering at both ends)
    • the floral scales are ovate (roughly egg-shaped)
    Floral scale translucent
    the floral scales are opaque
    Flower number per cluster
    • 5-20
    • more than 20
    Inflorescence bract angle
    NA
    Inflorescence bract number
    NA
    Inflorescence bract position (Sparganium)
    NA
    Inflorescence bracts
    NA
    Inflorescence branching
    the inflorescence is on one or more stems with no branches
    Inflorescence crowding
    the inflorescence is at least somewhat spread out, with at least one branch coming from the main stem
    Inflorescence position
    the inflorescence is at the tip of the plant
    Inflorescence shape
    the aggregations within the inflorescence are roughly circular (not flattened) in cross-section
    Inflorescence type
    there is one spike or raceme at the tip of the stem
    Perianth composition
    there are bristles attached at the base of the achene
    Stamen number
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Stigma number
    3
    Style division
    the top two thirds of the style is divided
    floral bristle barbs
    the bristles do not have barbs on them
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene tubercle relative width
    NA
    Achene tubercle width
    0 mm
    Capsule relative length
    NA
    Fruit cross-section
    the fruit is triangular to terete (circular) in cross-section
    Fruit length
    1.9–3.5 mm
    Fruit type (general)
    • the fruit is like a seed, and surrounded by hairs
    • the fruit is like a seed, and surrounded by scales
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is an achene (dry, seed-like fruit) without a tubercle (a swelling or projection, usually of a different color or texture)
    Locules in capsule
    NA
    Seed length
    0 mm
    Seed tail relative length
    0 mm
    Seed tails
    NA
    Tubercle height
    0 mm
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Underground organs
    the plant has a rhizome (a horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
  • Leaves
    Auricle length
    0 mm
    Auricle texture
    NA
    Auricles
    there are no auricles on the leaf sheath
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is elliptic or circular in cross-section
    Leaf blade length
    Up to 10 mm
    Leaf blade width
    0–10 mm
    Leaf form
    all the leaves hold their form out of water
    Leaf position on plant
    the attachment points of all the leaves are at or near the base of the plant
    Leaf septa
    the leaf blades do not have transverse septa
    Leaf sheath hairs
    the leaf sheathes are without hairs
    Pedicel length (Typha)
    0 mm
    Stem leaf blade ligules
    the plant has ligules at the leaf blade bases
    Stem leaf blades
    there are no leaves on the main stem, or there is a small tooth or tiny blade, or a leaf sheath with no blade
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • alpine or subalpine zones
    • bogs
    • meadows or fields
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    10–60 cm
    Stem shape in cross-section
    • the stem is roughly triangular in cross-section
    • the stem is round or oval in cross-section

Wetland Status

Occurs only in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: OBL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Connecticut
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Rhode Island
historical (S-rank: SH), state historical (code: SH)

var. spissum

Connecticut
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), threatened (code: T)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Eriophorum spissum Fern.
  • Eriophorum vaginatum L. var. spissum (Fern.) Boivin

Family

Cyperaceae

Genus

Eriophorum

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our subspecies is Eriophorum vaginatum L. ssp. spissum (Fern.) Hultén.

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