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Grey Sedge

Carex divulsa

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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, 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:
1 metre tall
Gardens, grassland, hedgerows, roadsides, scrub, wetland, woodland.

Brown, no petals
Spikes of green or brown flowers, widely scattered along the stem. Fairly short bracts.
Dark reddish-brown erect fruit capsules, abruptly narrowed towards the beak.
A tufted perennial with greyish-green strap-shaped leaves. The leaves have broad, blunt ligules. The stems are triangular in cross-section.
Other Names:
Berkeley Sedge, European Meadow Sedge, Grassland Sedge, Gray Sedge.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex divulsa, also known as the Berkeley sedge, is a species of sedge native to western North America. It is found in a variety of habitats, including wetland, grassland, and chaparral, and typically grows to be around 30-100 cm tall. The leaves are narrow and the flowers are small, inconspicuous and arranged in spikes. It is a hardy, drought tolerant plant and is tolerant of a wide range of soil types. It is used in landscaping and erosion control, and has been used for revegetation projects. It is also used to feed grazing animals.


Grey Sedge, scientifically known as Carex divulsa, is a perennial grass-like plant belonging to the family Cyperaceae. It is native to Europe and western Asia and is commonly found in damp meadows, stream banks, and wetlands. Grey sedge is known for its distinct appearance, hardy nature, and versatility in different types of environments.

Appearance and Characteristics: Grey sedge has a clump-forming growth habit, producing stems that can grow up to 1 meter tall. The leaves are long and narrow, and are typically blue-grey in color, giving the plant its common name. The plant produces spikes of small flowers that are usually brownish in color. The flowers emerge from late spring through to summer and are followed by seeds that are covered in a brownish scale.

Ecological Significance: Grey sedge is an important plant for wetland ecology. It is a robust species that can tolerate a wide range of soil types and environmental conditions. It is often used in restoration projects to help stabilize soil, reduce erosion, and provide habitat for a range of wildlife. In wetland environments, Grey sedge can help improve water quality by filtering pollutants and excess nutrients from the soil. It also provides food and shelter for a variety of insects, birds, and small mammals.

Cultural Significance: In addition to its ecological significance, Grey sedge has played an important role in human cultures throughout history. The plant was traditionally used for making mats, baskets, and other woven goods. The stems were also used for thatching roofs and making cordage. The seeds were used for food and as a source of oil, while the plant's roots were used for medicinal purposes.

Growing and Care: Grey sedge is a relatively low-maintenance plant that requires minimal care. It prefers damp soil and full to partial sun, making it an excellent choice for wetland and riparian environments. The plant should be watered regularly during dry spells, but should not be overwatered as it can cause root rot. In terms of pruning, Grey sedge should be cut back to the ground in late winter or early spring to encourage new growth.

Grey sedge is a hardy, versatile, and ecologically significant plant that has played an important role in human cultures throughout history. Its unique appearance, combined with its ability to thrive in a range of environments, make it an excellent choice for anyone interested in cultivating a low-maintenance, environmentally-friendly garden.

More Information

Grey sedge can also be used in landscaping and garden design as an ornamental plant, particularly in damp or boggy areas. It can add visual interest to a garden with its striking blue-grey leaves and spikes of flowers. It can be planted in clumps or used as a border plant to create a natural look in a garden.

When grown in a garden, Grey sedge can also help attract beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies. The plant provides nectar and pollen for these insects, helping to support the local ecosystem.

Grey sedge is a hardy plant that is relatively disease-resistant and is not usually affected by pests. It can be propagated from seed or by division in the spring or fall. Once established, the plant will grow slowly, forming a clump over time.

In terms of conservation, Grey sedge is not currently listed as an endangered species. However, it is important to protect wetland habitats where the plant naturally grows, as wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Wetlands provide essential habitat for a range of plant and animal species, and also help to regulate water flow and improve water quality.

Grey sedge is a versatile and ecologically significant plant that can be used in a range of settings, from wetlands to gardens. It is a low-maintenance plant that is relatively disease-resistant and can be used as an ornamental or functional plant. Its importance in wetland ecology also highlights the need to protect and conserve these vital ecosystems.

Grey sedge has several other common names, including Common sedge, Reed sedge, and Great sedge. It is also known by its scientific name, Carex divulsa, which is derived from the Latin word "divulso," meaning "to spread out" or "to lay bare." This name likely refers to the plant's clumping growth habit and ability to stabilize soil in wetland environments.

In addition to its practical uses, Grey sedge has also been the subject of cultural and artistic expressions. In Japan, the plant has been depicted in woodblock prints as part of naturalistic scenes. In the United Kingdom, Grey sedge has been used in traditional crafts such as basketry and thatching. The plant has also been used in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as urinary tract infections and kidney stones.

In terms of its relationship with other plant species, Grey sedge is known to form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi live in association with the plant's roots and help to improve nutrient uptake, as well as improve resistance to diseases and environmental stress.

Grey sedge is also an important food source for a range of wildlife species. Its seeds are consumed by birds, such as finches and buntings, while the leaves and stems provide cover and nesting habitat for small mammals such as voles and shrews. The plant's roots are also an important food source for waterfowl such as ducks and geese.

In conclusion, Grey sedge is a versatile, hardy, and ecologically important plant with a rich cultural history. Its ability to thrive in wetland environments makes it a valuable tool for wetland restoration and conservation. It can also be used in landscaping and gardening to create a naturalistic look, and its importance as a food source for wildlife highlights its role in supporting healthy ecosystems.

Subspecies Distribution Maps

Carex divulsa divulsa


Carex divulsa leersi

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI