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Pill Sedge

Carex pilulifera

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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 Cotton-grass, 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, 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, fens, gardens, grassland, heathland, marshes, moorland, mountains, riverbanks, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Green, no petals
1 male flower spike and 2 to 3 female flower spikes. Told from Spring Sedge (Carex caryophyllea) in that the female glumes are unawned and that the lowest bract is longer than the flower spike.
The hairy fruits are crammed together on the end of the stem around the bottom of the male flower.
Grass-like leaves. Similar to Spring Sedge but the leaves are a paler shade of green. The stems are also curved with Pill Sedge. Very common but throughout the British Isles, Pill Sedge is the most common in Scotland and Wales. Perennial.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex pilulifera, also known as "pill sedge" is a species of perennial plant in the Cyperaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is found in wetland habitats such as bogs, fens and along stream banks. It has triangular-shaped leaves and produces small brown or brownish-green flowers in spikes. The plant can grow up to 40 cm in height, it forms dense tufts and has a triangular stem. It prefers wet soils and partial shade, it is also tolerant to salt and drought. It is often used as a ornamental plant in gardens, and wetland restoration, it is also known for its medicinal properties, it has been traditionally used for wound healing and for treating respiratory conditions.


Pill sedge, scientifically known as Carex pilulifera, is a perennial plant that belongs to the sedge family, Cyperaceae. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is commonly found in meadows, grasslands, and woodland areas. The plant is notable for its small, dark brown, pill-shaped seeds that are produced in abundance on the flower spikes.

Appearance and Characteristics

Pill sedge has a distinctive appearance, with dark green leaves that are relatively narrow and taper to a point. The stems of the plant are triangular in shape and can grow up to 60 cm in height. The flowers of the plant are arranged in dense, cylindrical spikes that can be up to 4 cm long. The spikes are initially green, but turn brown as they mature. The small, pill-shaped seeds are produced in large numbers, giving the plant its common name.

Ecology and Habitat

Pill sedge is a highly adaptable plant that can grow in a range of soil types, from well-drained, sandy soils to wet, clay soils. It is a common plant in grassland and meadow habitats, and can also be found in woodland areas. It can tolerate both full sun and partial shade, making it a versatile plant for a range of garden settings.


Pill sedge is primarily used as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscaping projects. Its distinctive appearance, with its dark brown seed heads and attractive foliage, make it a popular choice for adding interest to borders and rockeries. It is also a useful plant for creating ground cover, as it forms dense clumps that can help to suppress weed growth.

In addition to its ornamental uses, pill sedge has some medicinal properties. It has been used in traditional medicine to treat a range of ailments, including inflammation, fever, and diarrhea. The plant contains a number of compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and research is ongoing to explore its potential uses in modern medicine.

Pill sedge is a distinctive and versatile plant that is widely used in gardens and landscaping projects. Its dark brown, pill-shaped seeds are its most notable feature, and give the plant its common name. The plant is highly adaptable and can grow in a range of soil types and light conditions, making it a useful addition to a range of garden settings. In addition to its ornamental uses, the plant has some medicinal properties and is currently being studied for its potential use in modern medicine.


Pill sedge is a relatively easy plant to cultivate and maintain, making it a popular choice for home gardeners. It prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter, and can tolerate a range of pH levels. The plant can be propagated through division, by separating clumps of the plant in early spring or autumn, or by sowing the small seeds in spring or autumn.


Pill sedge requires minimal maintenance, making it a great choice for low-maintenance gardens. The plant is relatively drought-tolerant, but should be watered regularly during dry periods. It does not require regular feeding, but can benefit from a light application of fertilizer in early spring.

Pests and Diseases

Pill sedge is relatively resistant to pests and diseases, but can be affected by a range of fungal diseases, including rust and smut. It can also be affected by aphids, which can cause damage to the foliage of the plant. To prevent these issues, it is important to keep the plant well-maintained, and to remove any infected foliage promptly.

Conservation Status

Pill sedge is not considered to be a threatened species, and is widely distributed throughout its native range. However, like many grassland species, it is at risk from habitat loss and fragmentation due to agricultural intensification and urbanization. As such, it is important to maintain and protect the grassland habitats where pill sedge is found in order to ensure the continued survival of this important plant species.

pill sedge is a versatile and interesting plant that is widely used in gardens and landscaping projects. Its unique appearance and easy cultivation make it a great choice for home gardeners, while its potential medicinal properties make it an intriguing plant for researchers. By protecting the grassland habitats where pill sedge is found, we can help to ensure the continued survival of this important plant species for generations to come.

Ethnobotanical and Historical Uses

Pill sedge has a long history of use in traditional medicine in various cultures throughout its native range. In medieval Europe, it was used to treat wounds, as well as to relieve pain and inflammation. In India, the plant has been used to treat fever, cough, and other respiratory ailments, and is believed to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. In China, pill sedge is used in traditional medicine to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and other digestive disorders.

The plant has also been used for a range of other purposes throughout history. In some cultures, the seeds were used as beads for necklaces and other decorative purposes. In northern Europe, the plant was sometimes used as a substitute for tobacco, due to its calming and relaxing properties.

Modern Research

Recent research has begun to explore the potential health benefits of pill sedge. The plant contains a range of bioactive compounds, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, and terpenoids, which have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Some studies have also suggested that the plant may have potential uses in the treatment of conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases, although further research is needed to confirm these findings.

In addition to its potential medicinal uses, pill sedge is being studied for its potential uses in environmental remediation. The plant has been shown to have the ability to absorb heavy metals and other pollutants from the soil, and may be useful in phytoremediation efforts to clean up contaminated sites.

Overall, pill sedge is a fascinating and versatile plant that has a long history of use in traditional medicine and other cultural practices. Its unique appearance and potential health benefits make it a plant of interest for both home gardeners and researchers alike, and it is likely to continue to be an important plant species for many years to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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