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Smooth-stalked Sedge

Carex laevigata

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Plant Profile

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, 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, 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:
150 centimetres tall
Marshes, meadows, riverbanks, riversides, swamps, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Brown, no petals
Flower spikes. Light reddish-brown glumes.
Green or reddish green fruit (or achenes, as they are known). The beaked fruit are dotted red. Up to 6mm long.
The leaves are broader than most sedges (up to 12mm wide). They are dark green with long ligules. The stems are sharply triangular in cross-section. Tuft-forming.
Other Names:
Smooth Sedge.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex laevigata, also known as smooth sedge, is a species of sedge native to North America. It is a perennial herb that forms dense clumps of long, narrow leaves. The leaves are typically a green to blue-green color, and are generally smooth and glossy. The plant typically grows to be between 20 and 60 centimeters tall, and produces small, inconspicuous flowers in the spring. The seeds are produced in a small, brown, triangular-shaped fruit that is known as an achene. It is found in moist to wet soil, such as swamps, marshes, meadows, wet prairies and along streams. It is also commonly used in landscaping for erosion control on slopes or in areas with poor soil. In addition, it is considered a valuable forage for wildlife, with the seeds and leaves being eaten by birds and small mammals.


Smooth-stalked sedge, or Carex laevigata, is a common sedge species found in wetland habitats throughout the northern hemisphere. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to 1.5 meters in height and has a distinctive smooth, unbranched stem that gives it its common name. In this blog post, we will explore some of the key features of this fascinating plant, as well as its ecological and cultural significance.

Ecology and Distribution

Smooth-stalked sedge is a common plant found in wetlands and marshes throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. It grows best in moist, nutrient-rich soils, and can tolerate both full sun and partial shade. The plant produces long, slender leaves that are typically green in color and can grow up to 40 centimeters in length. The leaves are linear, with parallel veins, and are often slightly rough to the touch.

The flowers of the smooth-stalked sedge are small and inconspicuous, with male and female flowers appearing on separate plants. The male flowers are yellow-brown in color and are produced on long, thin stalks that extend above the foliage. The female flowers, on the other hand, are greenish-brown in color and are produced on shorter stalks that emerge from the base of the plant.

Cultural Significance

Smooth-stalked sedge has been used by humans for a variety of purposes throughout history. In some cultures, the plant has been used as a source of food, medicine, and fiber. The leaves of the plant can be used to weave baskets and mats, while the roots have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds, and digestive issues.

In addition to its practical uses, smooth-stalked sedge has also played a role in mythology and folklore. In some Native American cultures, for example, the plant was believed to have healing powers and was often used in rituals to promote good health and well-being. Similarly, in European folklore, the smooth-stalked sedge was associated with fairies and other supernatural beings.

Conservation Status

Like many wetland species, smooth-stalked sedge is vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation. The draining and conversion of wetlands for agriculture, development, and other purposes have led to declines in the plant's populations in some regions. Additionally, pollution and other forms of environmental degradation can also impact the health and survival of smooth-stalked sedge and other wetland species.

To help protect smooth-stalked sedge and other wetland species, it is important to support conservation efforts and advocate for policies that promote the preservation and restoration of wetland habitats. By working together to protect these vital ecosystems, we can help ensure the survival of not only smooth-stalked sedge but also the countless other plants and animals that depend on wetlands for their survival.

Smooth-stalked sedge is a fascinating plant with a rich ecological and cultural history. From its role in wetland ecosystems to its use in traditional medicine and folklore, this plant has played an important role in human and natural history for thousands of years. By learning more about this plant and the threats facing its survival, we can work together to protect and preserve wetlands and the many species that depend on them for their survival.

More Information

Smooth-stalked sedge is an important component of wetland ecosystems, providing critical habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species. The plant's dense foliage provides cover and nesting sites for birds and other small animals, while its roots help stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. In addition, the plant's presence can help improve water quality by filtering pollutants and absorbing excess nutrients from the surrounding soil.

In terms of its use in traditional medicine, smooth-stalked sedge has a long history of use in various cultures. The plant has been used as a diuretic, astringent, and tonic, and has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and skin conditions. Some studies have also suggested that the plant may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, although more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits.

Despite its cultural and ecological significance, smooth-stalked sedge is currently facing a number of threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. To help address these challenges, it is important to support conservation efforts and work to promote policies that protect wetland habitats and the many species that depend on them. By working together to protect these vital ecosystems, we can help ensure the survival of not only smooth-stalked sedge but also the countless other plant and animal species that call wetlands home.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, smooth-stalked sedge is also an important species for restoration and management of wetland habitats. Due to its ability to tolerate a wide range of growing conditions and its role in stabilizing soils and improving water quality, the plant is often used in wetland restoration projects to help establish new vegetation and promote ecosystem health.

One of the challenges in managing wetland habitats is balancing the needs of human populations with the needs of the natural environment. In some cases, wetlands are drained or otherwise altered to make way for development or other human uses, which can have negative impacts on the plants and animals that depend on these ecosystems. However, there are also many cases where wetlands are carefully managed to provide both ecological and human benefits, such as flood control, water quality improvement, and recreational opportunities.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of wetlands and the need to protect and restore these critical ecosystems. Organizations and agencies around the world are working to promote wetland conservation and restoration, and there are many opportunities for individuals to get involved in these efforts as well. Whether through volunteering, advocacy, or simply learning more about wetland ecosystems, we can all play a role in protecting the vital habitats and species that depend on them.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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