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Common Sedge

Carex nigra

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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 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, grassland, marshes, meadows, riversides, sand dunes, swamps, waterside, wetland.

Black, no petals
Overlapping female catkins with blackish glumes. The female catkins reach 2cm in length. 2 styles. Common Sedge is similar in appearance to Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca) but that has 3 styles per flower.
The fruits are achenes (nutlets), partly black. In fruit from June to September.
A tussock-forming sedge with sword-shaped, bluish, glaucous leaves. One of the most common sedges in the UK.
Other Names:
Black Bog Sedge, Black Sedge, Smooth Black Sedge.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex nigra, also known as Black Sedge or Black Bog Sedge, is a species of sedge in the Cyperaceae family. It is native to North America and typically grows in wet, acidic soils in bogs, fens, and swamps. It has black or dark brown, triangular stems and elongated, dark green leaves. The flowers are inconspicuous and are arranged in a dense spike at the top of the stem. This species can grow up to 3 feet tall. Carex nigra is useful for landscaping in wet or poorly-drained areas, and it is also an important plant for wildlife habitat.


Common Sedge, or Carex nigra, is a perennial plant species that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a member of the sedge family, Cyperaceae, and is commonly found in wet meadows, marshes, and woodland edges.

Appearance: Common Sedge typically grows to a height of around 30-90 cm, with slender, triangular stems that are often bent over towards the ground. The leaves are long and narrow, typically around 3-10 mm wide, and have a dark green color. The flowers are arranged in compact, spike-like clusters that are typically 2-4 cm long. The flowers themselves are small and inconspicuous, with a brownish-green color.

Habitat: Common Sedge is a wetland species and is typically found in damp or wet soils, particularly in meadows and marshy areas. It is often found growing in association with other wetland plants such as sedges, rushes, and cattails. Common Sedge is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, from clay to sand, but it prefers soils that are rich in organic matter.

Ecological importance: Common Sedge plays an important role in wetland ecosystems, providing habitat and food for a variety of wildlife species. The plant's seeds and stems are a food source for birds and small mammals, and its leaves provide cover for amphibians and insects. The dense root system of Common Sedge helps to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, and also helps to improve water quality by filtering pollutants and excess nutrients.

Uses: Common Sedge has a number of traditional medicinal uses. The plant's roots and rhizomes have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, menstrual cramps, and skin conditions. In addition to its medicinal uses, Common Sedge has also been used historically for weaving baskets, mats, and other crafts.

Conservation status: Common Sedge is generally considered to be a common and widespread species, and it is not currently listed as threatened or endangered. However, like many wetland species, Common Sedge is susceptible to habitat loss and degradation due to human activities such as development, drainage, and pollution. Wetland conservation efforts can help to protect the habitat of Common Sedge and other wetland species.

Common Sedge is a fascinating and important plant species that plays a vital role in wetland ecosystems. Its slender stems and inconspicuous flowers may make it easy to overlook, but its ecological and cultural significance should not be underestimated. By learning about and appreciating the diversity of plant life in our wetlands, we can better understand and protect these important ecosystems.

Reproduction: Common Sedge is a perennial species, which means it lives for multiple years. It reproduces both vegetatively and sexually. Vegetative reproduction occurs through rhizomes, which are underground stems that can produce new shoots and roots. Sexual reproduction occurs through the production of flowers and the development of seeds. The flowers are wind-pollinated, and the seeds are dispersed by wind, water, and animals.

Varieties: There are several varieties of Common Sedge, which differ in their growth habit and ecological requirements. For example, the variety "caespitosa" is a clump-forming sedge that is typically found in drier habitats, while the variety "bigelowii" is a spreading sedge that is typically found in wetter habitats.

Similar species: Common Sedge is often confused with other species in the sedge family. Some of the species that are most similar to Common Sedge include Black Sedge (Carex atrata), Brown Sedge (Carex disticha), and Grey Sedge (Carex canescens). These species can be differentiated from Common Sedge based on various morphological features, such as the shape and color of the leaves and flowers.

Cultural significance: Common Sedge has played an important role in the culture and folklore of many societies throughout history. In Europe, for example, Common Sedge was associated with the goddess Brigid, who was said to have woven her cloak from the plant's leaves. In Scandinavia, the plant was associated with Thor, the god of thunder, and was used in various rituals and ceremonies.

Common Sedge is a fascinating and important plant species that plays a vital role in wetland ecosystems and has cultural significance in many societies. Its ability to reproduce both vegetatively and sexually, along with its tolerance for a wide range of soil types, make it a valuable plant for wetland restoration and conservation efforts. By learning about and appreciating Common Sedge and other wetland species, we can help to protect and preserve these important ecosystems for future generations.

Uses in gardening: Common Sedge is sometimes used in gardening and landscaping, particularly in wetland or bog gardens. It can be used to help stabilize soil in wet areas and prevent erosion, and it also provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. In addition, the plant's fine texture and dark green color make it an attractive addition to a garden or landscape.

Edible uses: Common Sedge has edible parts, although it is not commonly consumed by humans. The seeds can be ground into a flour and used to make bread or porridge, and the young shoots and leaves can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. However, the plant is not widely used for culinary purposes due to its tough and fibrous texture.

Medical research: Common Sedge has been the subject of medical research due to its potential as a source of bioactive compounds. Studies have shown that the plant contains a variety of compounds with anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and anti-oxidant properties. These compounds may have potential as treatments for various medical conditions, although more research is needed to determine their efficacy and safety.

Invasive potential: While Common Sedge is not typically considered an invasive species, it has the potential to become problematic in certain habitats. In areas where wetlands have been disturbed or degraded, Common Sedge can sometimes spread rapidly and outcompete native species. This can lead to a loss of biodiversity and a reduction in the ecological services provided by the wetland.

In conclusion, Common Sedge is a versatile and important plant species that has a variety of uses and ecological roles. From its traditional medicinal uses to its potential as a source of bioactive compounds, the plant has been valued by humans for centuries. However, as with all species, it is important to carefully manage and protect Common Sedge to ensure that it continues to provide ecological and cultural benefits for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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