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Flea Sedge

Carex pulicaris

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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, 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:
30 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, heathland, marshes, meadows, moorland, mountains, rocky places, wetland.

Brown, no petals
Reddish-brown flower spikes, measuring between 1 and 2.5cm in length.
Dark brown, shiny fruit, 4 to 6mm long. When the fruit are mature they can sometimes spring off their stems when touched. The similar looking Few-flowered Sedge (Carex pauciflora) has straw-yellow fruits.
Very narrow leaves with rounded stems. The leaves are under 1mm wide.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex pulicaris, also known as the flea sedge, is a species of perennial sedge that is native to Europe and Asia. It is typically found in damp meadows, marshes, and wet woods. It has long, narrow leaves and small, brownish-green flowers that appear in spring and summer. The plant is often used as a ground cover in gardens and can be used in wetland restoration projects.


Flea sedge (Carex pulicaris) is a small, tufted perennial plant that belongs to the family Cyperaceae. It is native to Europe and western Asia, and is commonly found growing in damp, shady habitats such as woodlands, wet meadows, and marshes. The plant's common name, flea sedge, is derived from the small, dark brown, flea-like fruits that develop on the plant's spikelets in the summer.

Appearance and Characteristics

Flea sedge has a distinctive appearance that makes it easy to identify. It grows in tufts, with slender, grass-like leaves that are typically around 20 cm long. The leaves are a bright green color and have a ribbed or grooved appearance. The plant produces flower spikes in late spring or early summer, which are around 10 cm long and have small, dark brown spikelets. The spikelets contain both male and female flowers and are arranged in a compact cluster at the top of the stem.

Ecological Importance

Flea sedge is an important plant for a variety of wildlife species. It provides food and habitat for a number of insects, including beetles, moths, and butterflies. The plant's leaves are an important food source for caterpillars, and its flowers are a valuable nectar source for bees and other pollinators. Flea sedge also provides cover and shelter for small animals, such as voles and shrews.

Conservation Status

Flea sedge is listed as a species of conservation concern in many European countries, including the United Kingdom. The plant's natural habitats, such as woodlands and wet meadows, have been lost or degraded due to human activities such as agriculture, urbanization, and land-use change. In addition, the plant is sensitive to changes in water levels and pollution, which can have negative impacts on its growth and reproduction.

Conservation efforts for flea sedge have focused on restoring and protecting its natural habitats, as well as raising awareness about the plant's importance and conservation needs. Efforts have also been made to monitor populations of flea sedge and develop management plans to ensure their long-term survival.


Flea sedge has a long history of medicinal use. In traditional herbal medicine, it was used to treat a range of ailments, including rheumatism, skin conditions, and digestive problems. The plant's leaves and roots contain a number of compounds with potential therapeutic properties, including tannins, flavonoids, and alkaloids.

Flea sedge has also been used for a variety of other purposes. Its leaves were traditionally used to make baskets and mats, and its fibrous roots were used to make cordage. The plant has also been used as a dye, producing a range of yellow and green colors.

Flea sedge is a fascinating and important plant that has played an important role in human culture and ecology for centuries. While it faces a number of conservation challenges, efforts to protect and restore its natural habitats offer hope for its long-term survival. With continued attention and care, this unique and valuable plant can continue to thrive and contribute to the rich diversity of the natural world.

More Information

One interesting feature of flea sedge is its ability to tolerate a wide range of soil types and water levels. It is adapted to damp, shady environments, but can also grow in more open habitats. The plant has a fibrous root system that helps it to anchor itself in the soil and absorb water and nutrients.

Flea sedge is also a valuable indicator species for wetland habitats. Its presence can indicate the presence of other wetland plants and the overall health of the ecosystem. The plant is also a useful tool for ecological restoration, as it can help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion in wetland environments.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, flea sedge is also an interesting subject for botanical study. Its distinctive appearance and reproductive structures have made it a popular subject for research on plant morphology and evolution.

Overall, flea sedge is an important and fascinating plant that has played an important role in human culture and ecology for centuries. While it faces a number of challenges, efforts to protect and conserve its natural habitats offer hope for its continued survival and contribution to the diversity of the natural world.

One interesting aspect of flea sedge is its ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. It has been shown to exhibit a range of physiological responses to changes in soil moisture, temperature, and other environmental factors. For example, in response to water stress, the plant has been observed to reduce leaf growth and increase root growth, in order to better absorb and conserve water.

Flea sedge is also a valuable source of food and habitat for a variety of bird species. It provides cover and nesting sites for ground-nesting birds such as snipe and lapwing, and its seeds are an important food source for birds such as siskins and goldfinches.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, flea sedge has also been the subject of research for its potential medicinal properties. Studies have shown that the plant contains compounds with anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-cancer properties. While more research is needed to fully understand the therapeutic potential of flea sedge, these findings suggest that the plant may have important applications in modern medicine.

Overall, flea sedge is a fascinating and important plant with a rich cultural and ecological history. Its ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, its value as an indicator species for wetland habitats, and its potential medicinal properties make it a subject of ongoing research and conservation efforts. By working to protect and conserve this unique and valuable plant, we can help to preserve its important ecological and cultural contributions for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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