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Common Cotton-grass

Eriophorum angustifolium

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Cyperaceae (Sedge)
Also in this family:
American Galingale, Birdsfoot Sedge, Black Alpine Sedge, Black Bog-rush, Bladder Sedge, Bog Sedge, Bottle Sedge, Bristle Club-rush, Bristle Sedge, Broad-leaved Cotton-grass, Brown Beak-sedge, Brown Bog-rush, Chestnut Rush, Close-headed Alpine Sedge, Club Sedge, Common Club-rush, Common Sedge, Common Spike-rush, Curved Sedge, Deergrass, Dioecious Sedge, Distant Sedge, Divided Sedge, Dotted Sedge, Downy-fruited Sedge, Dwarf Sedge, Dwarf Spike-rush, Estuarine Sedge, False Fox Sedge, False Sedge, Few-flowered Sedge, Few-flowered Spike-rush, Fibrous Tussock Sedge, Fingered Sedge, Flat Sedge, Flea Sedge, Floating Club-rush, Gingerbread Sedge, Glaucous Sedge, Great Fen Sedge, Greater Pond Sedge, Greater Tussock Sedge, Green-ribbed Sedge, Grey Club-rush, Grey Sedge, Hair Sedge, Hairy Sedge, Haresfoot Sedge, Hare's-tail Cotton-grass, Heath Sedge, Hop Sedge, Large Yellow Sedge, Lesser Pond Sedge, Lesser Tussock Sedge, Long-bracted Sedge, Many-stalked Spike-rush, Mountain Bog Sedge, Needle Spike-rush, Northern Deergrass, Northern Spike-rush, Oval Sedge, Pale Sedge, Pendulous Sedge, Perennial Sedge, Pill Sedge, Prickly Sedge, Remote Sedge, Rock Sedge, Round-headed Club-rush, Russet Sedge, Salt Sedge, Sand Sedge, Scorched Alpine Sedge, Sea Club-rush, Sheathed Sedge, Slender Club-rush, Slender Cotton-grass, Slender Sedge, Slender Spike-rush, Slender Tufted Sedge, Smooth-stalked Sedge, Soft-leaved Sedge, Spiked Sedge, Spring Sedge, Star Sedge, Starved Wood Sedge, Stiff Sedge, String Sedge, Sweet Galingale, Tall Bog Sedge, Tawny Sedge, Thin-spiked Wood Sedge, Triangular Club-rush, True Fox Sedge, Tufted Sedge, Water Sedge, White Beak-sedge, White Sedge, Wood Club-rush, Wood Sedge, Yellow Sedge
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
40 centimetres tall
Bogs, marshes, meadows, moorland, wetland.

White, no petals
Fluffy white flowers resembling balls of cotton wool which give the plant its name. Multiple flowers emanating from the sides of the stem, unlike the Hare's-tail Cotton-grass which has a single flower at the top of the stem. This flower grows in large patches and it's not unusual to find very distinctive white-dotted landscapes wherever this plant grows.
Brown seeds, or 'achenes', up to 3mm long. They are flat, 3-sided, elliptical and widest above the middle.
Dark green, linear leaves.
Other Names:
Bog Cotton, Common Cottonsedge, Downy Ling, Many-headed Cotton Grass, Narrow-leaved Cottongrass, Tall Cotton Grass, Tassel Cotton Grass, Thin-scale Cotton Grass.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Eriophorum angustifolium, also known as the narrow-leaved cotton-grass or common cotton-grass, is a species of flowering plant in the family Cyperaceae. It is native to northern latitudes in Europe, Asia, and North America, where it grows in wetland habitats such as bogs and fens. The plant is herbaceous and has a creeping rhizome. It produces dense, fluffy clusters of white flowers in the summer. Eriophorum angustifolium is an important food source for many species of wildlife, and it is also used medicinally and as a natural dye.


The plant belongs to the Cyperaceae family and is commonly found in bogs, fens, and wet meadows. It is a hardy plant that can withstand harsh conditions such as cold temperatures, strong winds, and wet soils. The plant is commonly found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions and is also native to many parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.

Eriophorum angustifolium is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows to an average height of 60-90 cm. The leaves are narrow and grass-like and are usually 10-30 cm in length. The leaves are a light green color and have a distinctive texture that is soft to the touch. The plant produces delicate spikes of fluffy white or pinkish flowers that bloom from May to July. The flowers are an important source of food for many pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths.

The cotton-like seeds of the plant are an important part of the ecosystem. They are an important food source for many birds, including geese and swans, which feed on the seeds during migration. The seeds are also used to propagate the plant, which is important for maintaining the plant's population in its natural habitats.

Eriophorum angustifolium is a slow-growing plant that can take several years to reach maturity. However, once established, the plant is long-lived and can survive for several decades. The plant is also very hardy and can withstand harsh conditions such as cold temperatures, strong winds, and wet soils. This makes it an ideal plant for restoration projects in wetland habitats.

Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) is a beautiful and unique plant species that is an important part of the wetland ecosystem. With its delicate cotton-like flowers and its ability to withstand harsh conditions, this plant is a beautiful addition to any landscape. It is also an important source of food for many pollinators and birds, making it a valuable species to protect and conserve for future generations.

In addition to its ecological significance, Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) has also been used for medicinal purposes by indigenous peoples for centuries. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, fevers, and digestive problems. The plant is also believed to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, making it a valuable addition to traditional medicine.

Unfortunately, like many wetland plants, Eriophorum angustifolium is facing a number of threats to its survival. The loss of wetland habitats due to human activities such as agriculture, urbanization, and dam construction is one of the biggest threats to the plant's survival. Climate change is also a significant threat, as it can alter the plant's growing conditions and disrupt its pollination and seed production.

To protect Common Cotton-grass and other wetland species, it is important to conserve and restore wetland habitats. This can be done by creating new wetlands, restoring degraded wetlands, and protecting existing wetlands from development and other threats. It is also important to monitor and research the impacts of climate change on wetland ecosystems, as this will help us understand the challenges that these plants will face in the future.

Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) is a valuable species that deserves our protection and conservation. With its delicate cotton-like flowers, ecological significance, and medicinal properties, this plant is a valuable addition to our natural heritage. By conserving and restoring wetland habitats, we can help ensure that this and other wetland species will be around for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.

Additionally, Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) plays a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Wetlands, including bogs and fens where Eriophorum angustifolium is commonly found, are important carbon sinks. They store large amounts of carbon, which helps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of global warming.

The plant also helps to prevent soil erosion and reduce the risk of flooding in its natural habitats. Its extensive root system helps to anchor the soil and prevent it from being washed away by heavy rains. In addition, its leaves and stems slow down the flow of water, allowing it to be absorbed into the soil instead of flowing into streams and rivers. This helps to prevent soil erosion and reduce the risk of flooding.

It is important to note that wetlands play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the planet. They provide habitat for a wide range of plants and animals, filter pollutants from water, and help to regulate the Earth's climate. By conserving and restoring wetlands, we can help to protect this vital ecosystem and ensure its continued health for future generations.

Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) is an important species that contributes to the health of both the environment and the planet. Its delicate cotton-like flowers, ecological significance, and medicinal properties make it a valuable addition to our natural heritage. By conserving and restoring wetland habitats, we can help ensure the survival of this species and other important wetland plants, as well as maintain the health of the planet for future generations.

Moreover, Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) is also an important species for cultural and traditional uses. In many indigenous cultures, the plant has been used for basketry, insulation, and bedding. The fibrous stems of the plant are strong and flexible, making them ideal for weaving baskets and creating other woven items. In addition, the soft seeds of the plant have been used as stuffing for pillows, mattresses, and clothing, providing warmth and comfort.

In some indigenous cultures, the plant has also been used as a symbol of life and renewal. Its delicate flowers are seen as a symbol of hope and new beginnings, and its presence in wetland habitats is celebrated as a sign of the return of spring. The plant is also seen as a source of protection and strength, and is often used in traditional medicine to heal and comfort those who are sick or in pain.

It is important to recognize and preserve the cultural and traditional uses of Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and other wetland plants. These plants are an important part of our cultural heritage, and preserving their traditional uses helps to maintain the cultural identity and knowledge of indigenous peoples.

In conclusion, Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) is an important species that contributes to the cultural, ecological, and environmental health of the planet. Its delicate cotton-like flowers, ecological significance, medicinal properties, and cultural and traditional uses make it a valuable addition to our natural and cultural heritage. By conserving and restoring wetland habitats and preserving the traditional uses of wetland plants, we can help to protect this important species and ensure its continued existence for future generations.


Common Cotton-grass filmed on Winter Hill, Lancashire, 7th June 2022.


The video also features Hare's-tail Cotton-grass but the close-up at 30 seconds is Common Cotton-grass.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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