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Heath Sedge

Carex ericetorum

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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, 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:
50 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, heathland, wetland.

Brown, no petals
Thin, compact, cylindrical flower spike. Reddish-brown glumes, pale edged. The female glumes are awnless.
Green and downy.
Dark green leaves with short ligules.
Other Names:
Heathland Sedge, Rare Spring Sedge.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex ericetorum, also known as "heath sedge" or "heathland sedge" is a species of perennial plant in the Cyperaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is found in wet heathland, bogs, and fens. It has triangular-shaped leaves and produces small brown or brownish-green flowers in spikes. The plant can grow up to 50 cm in height and forms dense tufts. It prefers acidic soils, wet conditions and partial shade, it is also tolerant to salt and drought, it is often used as a ornamental plant in gardens, and wetland restoration.


Heath Sedge, scientific name Carex ericetorum, is a perennial sedge plant that is commonly found in heathlands, moors, and other open areas throughout Europe. It is a member of the sedge family, Cyperaceae, and is known for its unique ecological and cultural significance.

Appearance and Characteristics

Heath Sedge typically grows to a height of 20 to 50 cm and forms dense clumps with narrow, grass-like leaves. Its stems are usually triangular in shape and are slightly rough to the touch. The flowers of Heath Sedge are small and unremarkable, with male and female flowers produced on separate plants.

Ecological Significance

Heath Sedge is an important plant in the heathland and moorland ecosystems of Europe, where it helps to stabilize soils and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. It is particularly important for insects, such as moths and butterflies, which rely on the plant for food and shelter. Heath Sedge is also a valuable food source for grazing animals, such as sheep and deer.

Cultural Significance

Heath Sedge has been used by humans for centuries for a variety of purposes. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used to treat a range of ailments, from rheumatism to respiratory infections. It has also been used as a source of fiber for weaving and as a thatching material for roofs. In some cultures, Heath Sedge has even been used for making baskets and other household items.

Conservation Status

Despite its ecological and cultural significance, Heath Sedge is currently facing a number of threats. The plant is often overgrazed by livestock, which can cause it to become less abundant in some areas. It is also threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation due to human development, agriculture, and other land use changes.

Conservation efforts are underway in many parts of Europe to protect Heath Sedge and its associated ecosystems. These efforts include habitat restoration, controlled grazing, and public education and outreach to raise awareness of the plant's importance.

Heath Sedge is a unique and important plant that plays a crucial role in the heathland and moorland ecosystems of Europe. It has significant ecological and cultural value and is an important resource for both wildlife and humans. However, it is facing a range of threats and conservation efforts are needed to ensure that it remains a vibrant and vital part of the natural world.

Distribution and Habitat

Heath Sedge is found throughout much of Europe, from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. It is particularly common in heathlands and moorlands, where it can form large, dense stands. It is also found in other open habitats, such as grasslands, open woodlands, and along roadsides and other disturbed areas.

Growing Conditions

Heath Sedge is adapted to a range of soil types and growing conditions, but it prefers well-drained, acidic soils that are low in nutrients. It can tolerate both drought and occasional flooding, and it is often found in areas with high rainfall. It can grow in full sun or partial shade.


Heath Sedge can be propagated by seed, but it is also easily propagated by division of existing clumps. It can be grown in pots or planted directly into the ground in suitable locations.


In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, Heath Sedge has a number of other uses. It is sometimes used in horticulture as a decorative plant in rock gardens, borders, and other ornamental settings. It has also been used in ecological restoration projects, where it is used to stabilize soils and improve habitat for native wildlife.

Heath Sedge is a unique and important plant that is worth protecting and preserving. Its ecological and cultural significance, as well as its other uses, make it a valuable resource that should be conserved for future generations. By taking steps to protect and restore its habitat, we can ensure that Heath Sedge continues to play its important role in the natural world.

Life Cycle

Heath Sedge is a perennial plant, meaning that it lives for more than two years. It produces new growth each year from the base of the plant, and it can spread slowly over time through the production of new shoots and roots. In the wild, it can live for up to 10 years or more.

Associated Species

Heath Sedge is often found growing in association with other heathland and moorland species, such as heather, bilberry, and bracken. These plants form an important part of the ecosystem, providing food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including insects, birds, and mammals.


In addition to the threats mentioned earlier, Heath Sedge is also threatened by invasive species that can outcompete it for resources. In some areas, non-native grasses and other plants have been introduced, which can displace native species and reduce the overall biodiversity of the habitat. Climate change is also a potential threat, as it can alter the conditions in which Heath Sedge and other species grow.

Conservation Status

Heath Sedge is not currently listed as a threatened or endangered species, but it is considered to be of conservation concern in some areas. Its importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning means that efforts should be made to protect and conserve it and its associated habitats.


Heath Sedge is a fascinating and important plant that has a lot to offer both ecologically and culturally. Its unique adaptations and associations with other species make it an essential part of many heathland and moorland ecosystems. By taking steps to protect and conserve it, we can help to ensure that it continues to thrive for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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