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Bristle Sedge

Carex microglochin

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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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, 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:
90 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, marshes, mountains, riverbanks, riversides, waterside, wetland.

Brown, no petals
Brown oval flower spikes. Reddish-brown glumes.
Dark brown fruit. Similar to Flea Sedge (Carex pulicaris) but the fruit is bristly.
Very narrow, grass-like leaves. Similar to Few-flowered Sedge (Carex pauciflora) but the stems are rounded. Few-flowered Sedge has blunt 3-sided stems.
Other Names:
Small-spiked Oval-fruited Sedge, Small-spiked Sedge.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex microglochin is a species of sedge, a type of grass-like plant. It is native to North America, where it is found in wetlands and other moist habitats. It has small, inconspicuous flowers and typically grows to be around 6-8 inches tall. It is also known as small-spiked sedge or small-spiked oval-fruited sedge.


Bristle sedge, also known as Carex microglochin, is a perennial sedge that belongs to the family Cyperaceae. It is a common plant found in wetlands, marshes, and meadows throughout North America, from Alaska to Newfoundland and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Appearance and Characteristics

Bristle sedge has a unique appearance that makes it easy to identify. The plant grows up to three feet tall and has long, slender leaves that are usually less than 1 cm wide. Its stem is triangular and smooth, and it often has a reddish-brown color. Bristle sedge produces small flowers that are brown or green and arranged in clusters called spikes. The spikes have a bristly appearance due to the numerous bracts that surround them. The bracts are usually longer than the flowers and can be up to 10 cm in length.

Ecological Importance

Bristle sedge is an important plant in wetland ecosystems. Its roots help stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. The plant provides habitat and food for a variety of animals, including birds, insects, and small mammals. The seeds of Bristle sedge are an important food source for birds, particularly waterfowl. The plant also helps improve water quality by filtering and absorbing excess nutrients and pollutants.

Cultural and Historical Significance

Bristle sedge has a long history of use by Indigenous peoples in North America. The plant was traditionally used for food, medicine, and basketry. The seeds of Bristle sedge were harvested and ground into flour for making bread or porridge. The leaves and stems were used for weaving baskets, mats, and other household items. The plant also had medicinal uses, such as treating wounds, stomach ailments, and respiratory problems.

Conservation Status

Bristle sedge is a common plant in many wetland habitats, but it is still at risk due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems globally, with an estimated 50% lost in the last century. Development, agricultural practices, and invasive species are among the main threats to wetlands, and Bristle sedge is no exception. In some areas, Bristle sedge is considered a species of concern and is protected under local or state laws.

Bristle sedge is an important plant in wetland ecosystems and has cultural and historical significance to Indigenous peoples in North America. It is a unique and easily identifiable plant with bristly spikes that provide habitat and food for a variety of animals. However, like many wetland plants, Bristle sedge is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and conservation efforts are needed to protect this valuable plant and its associated ecosystems.

Uses in Landscaping and Restoration

Bristle sedge is also valued for its ornamental value and is used in landscaping and restoration projects. Its tall, slender form and attractive spikes make it a popular choice for wetland gardens and rain gardens. Bristle sedge is also used in wetland restoration projects to stabilize soil, prevent erosion, and filter water. The plant is easy to grow from seed or by transplanting and can be an important component of wetland restoration projects.

Propagation and Care

Bristle sedge is relatively easy to grow from seed or by transplanting. The plant prefers moist, well-drained soils and can tolerate both full sun and partial shade. In wetland gardens and restoration projects, Bristle sedge is often planted in groups to create a dense stand that provides habitat and stabilizes soil. The plant is relatively low-maintenance and does not require much attention once established.

Potential Drawbacks

Although Bristle sedge is an important plant in wetland ecosystems, it can also be considered a weed in some contexts. In agricultural or residential areas, Bristle sedge can be difficult to control and may spread aggressively, outcompeting other plants. In some cases, the plant may need to be removed or managed to prevent it from becoming a nuisance.

Bristle sedge is an important plant in wetland ecosystems and has cultural, ecological, and ornamental value. The plant's unique appearance and important role in wetland ecosystems make it a valuable component of restoration projects and wetland gardens. However, it is also important to be mindful of the potential drawbacks and management needs associated with the plant. With careful attention to its needs and management, Bristle sedge can be a valuable and sustainable addition to many landscapes.

Research on Bristle Sedge

There is ongoing research on the ecology and management of Bristle sedge and its associated wetland habitats. Some studies have examined the plant's role in nutrient cycling and water quality, while others have focused on its potential use in phytoremediation or carbon sequestration. Other studies have examined the genetics and population dynamics of Bristle sedge, which can help inform conservation efforts and management strategies.

Conservation Efforts

Bristle sedge and its associated wetland habitats are increasingly threatened by human activities and climate change. To help protect these important ecosystems, conservation efforts are needed at multiple levels, including land-use planning, policy, and on-the-ground management. Wetland restoration and management projects can help restore degraded habitats and provide critical ecosystem services, such as water filtration and wildlife habitat. Public education and outreach efforts can also raise awareness about the importance of wetlands and the need for their protection.


Bristle sedge is a valuable and unique plant that plays an important role in wetland ecosystems. It is a plant with ecological, cultural, and ornamental value and is an important component of wetland restoration and management projects. However, the plant is also threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and conservation efforts are needed to protect its associated wetland habitats. With careful attention to its needs and management, Bristle sedge can be a sustainable and valuable addition to many landscapes.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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