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Birdsfoot Sedge

Carex ornithopoda

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Cyperaceae (Sedge)
Also in this family:
American Galingale, 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, 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, fens, gardens, grassland, meadows, riverbanks, rocky places, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Green, no petals
A male finger-like spike and 2 or 3 reddish-brown female spikes. Fingered Sedge (Carex digitata) is similar in appearance but Birdsfoot Sedge is shorter and is said to have more spreading flower spikes, resembling a bird's foot.
A light brown nut.
A low growing sedge with narrow, alternate, hairless leaves. The similar-looking Fingered Sedge is sparsely haired.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex ornithopoda, commonly known as "bird's-foot sedge," is a perennial herbaceous plant in the Cyperaceae family. It is native to North America and typically found in wet or moist habitats, such as bogs, fens, wet meadows, and along stream banks. It has narrow, green leaves and small, inconspicuous brown or green flowers that appear in spring and early summer. Carex ornithopoda can grow in sun or shade, wet or dry soils and can tolerate some degree of flooding. The leaves of Carex ornithopoda are arranged in a distinctive fan-like shape, hence the name "bird's-foot sedge". It is often used in landscaping and gardening for its ability to tolerate wet soils and to provide a ground cover in shaded or partly shaded areas, also it can be used to stabilize stream banks and other erosion-prone areas.


Birdsfoot sedge, scientifically known as Carex ornithopoda, is a unique and beautiful perennial plant that belongs to the sedge family. It is native to Europe and Asia and can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, woodlands, and heathlands.

The plant gets its common name from the shape of its seed heads, which resemble the shape of a bird's foot. The seed heads are arranged in clusters at the end of the long, slender stems, which can grow up to 40 cm in height. The leaves are narrow and grass-like, with a bluish-green color and a waxy texture.

Birdsfoot sedge is a hardy plant that is well adapted to a wide range of growing conditions. It prefers moist, well-drained soils, but can tolerate dry conditions and even some shade. It is also tolerant of a range of soil types, including sandy and clay soils.

One of the unique features of Birdsfoot sedge is its ability to form large clumps or tussocks, which can help stabilize soil and prevent erosion. This makes it an important plant for restoration and erosion control projects, as well as for landscaping and gardening.

Birdsfoot sedge also provides valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. The seeds are an important food source for many bird species, and the plant's dense clumps can provide shelter and nesting sites.

In addition to its ecological and aesthetic value, Birdsfoot sedge has a number of traditional medicinal uses. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including kidney problems, bladder infections, and digestive issues. It has also been used as a diuretic and as a remedy for fevers.

Overall, Birdsfoot sedge is a fascinating and versatile plant that deserves more recognition and appreciation. Its unique appearance, ecological benefits, and medicinal properties make it a valuable addition to any landscape or ecosystem.

One of the reasons Birdsfoot sedge is so adaptable to different growing conditions is its ability to establish quickly and efficiently. It can spread through both seed and rhizomes, allowing it to quickly colonize disturbed or bare soils. Once established, the dense tussocks formed by Birdsfoot sedge can help suppress the growth of invasive species and promote the growth of other desirable plants.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal value, Birdsfoot sedge is also a popular ornamental plant. Its unique seed heads and attractive foliage make it a popular choice for naturalistic or prairie-style gardens. It can also be used in rain gardens and other landscaping projects to help absorb and filter stormwater runoff.

Despite its many benefits, Birdsfoot sedge is not widely known or recognized. In fact, it is considered a threatened species in some areas of its native range, due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Conservation efforts, including habitat restoration and protection, are necessary to ensure the long-term survival of this important plant.

Birdsfoot sedge is a fascinating and versatile plant with many ecological, medicinal, and aesthetic benefits. Its unique appearance, adaptability, and ability to provide valuable habitat and ecosystem services make it a valuable addition to any landscape or restoration project. More research and conservation efforts are needed to fully understand and appreciate the many benefits of this important plant.

One interesting aspect of Birdsfoot sedge is its use in traditional handicrafts. The tough, fibrous leaves can be used to make baskets, mats, and other woven items. The plant's dried stems can also be used for thatching and roofing.

Birdsfoot sedge is also a valuable food source for some wildlife, including deer, rabbits, and rodents. The plant's seeds and leaves are an important source of nutrition for these animals, particularly during the winter months when other food sources may be scarce.

Another interesting fact about Birdsfoot sedge is that it has been used in folk medicine to treat a wide range of ailments, including asthma, coughs, and menstrual cramps. It has also been used as a topical treatment for skin irritations and infections.

In addition to its ecological and cultural value, Birdsfoot sedge is also an important plant for soil health. Its extensive root system helps to improve soil structure and prevent erosion, while also enhancing soil fertility and moisture retention.

Overall, Birdsfoot sedge is a fascinating and important plant with many benefits and uses. From its ecological and cultural value to its medicinal and culinary uses, this versatile plant deserves more recognition and appreciation. Whether in a naturalistic garden, a restoration project, or a traditional handicraft, Birdsfoot sedge is a valuable and versatile plant that can bring beauty and value to a wide range of settings.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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