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Water Sedge

Carex aquatilis

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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, 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, White Beak-sedge, White Sedge, Wood Club-rush, Wood Sedge, Yellow Sedge
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
80 centimetres tall
Bogs, gardens, marshes, mountains, riverbanks, riversides, swamps, waterside, wetland.

Brown, no petals
Up to 4 brown / green flower spikes, each reaching 6cm in length. Wind-pollinated.
The fruit is an achene, which is a type of nutlet. Fruits are produced in August.
Alternate, grass-like leaves, up to 8mm wide. When the leaves are young, they are V-shaped in cross-section. Perennial.
Other Names:
Aquatic Sedge, Leafy Tussock Sedge, Sitka Sedge.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Carex aquatilis, also known as water sedge or aquatic sedge, is a species of perennial herb that is native to North America and Europe. It typically grows in wet habitats such as marshes, bogs, and along the edges of streams and ponds. It can grow up to 80 cm tall, and has narrow, green leaves and small, inconspicuous flowers. It is often used in landscaping and gardening as an attractive and hardy plant for damp or wet areas.


Water sedge, also known as Carex aquatilis, is a species of perennial sedge that belongs to the Cyperaceae family. This plant is native to the wetlands and marshes of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a highly adaptable plant that can grow in a wide range of soil types, from sand to clay, as well as in both full sun and partial shade.

Water sedge is a clump-forming plant that typically grows up to 2 feet in height. Its slender leaves are green in color and can grow up to 18 inches in length. The plant produces inconspicuous flowers that are borne on spikes that rise above the leaves in the summer. These flowers give way to small, dark brown seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

One of the most important roles of water sedge is its ability to stabilize soil in wetland environments. Its extensive root system helps to hold the soil in place, preventing erosion and creating habitat for other wetland plants and animals. In addition, water sedge is an important food source for many wetland wildlife species, including waterfowl, muskrats, and beavers.

Water sedge has also been used for medicinal purposes by indigenous cultures. It has been used to treat a range of ailments, including diarrhea, fever, and pain. The plant contains various bioactive compounds that have been found to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies have even suggested that water sedge may have potential as a treatment for certain types of cancer.

In terms of cultivation, water sedge can be grown in wetland gardens and around the edges of ponds or streams. It is also an ideal plant for rain gardens and bioswales, as it can help to filter and absorb excess water runoff. When planting water sedge, it is important to ensure that the soil remains moist, as the plant will not tolerate prolonged periods of drought.

Water sedge is a highly adaptable plant that plays a critical role in wetland ecosystems. It provides habitat and food for many wetland wildlife species, helps to stabilize soil, and may have medicinal properties. As such, it is an important plant to conserve and protect in our wetland environments.

Water sedge is a popular choice for ecological restoration projects, as it is easy to grow and can help to prevent soil erosion and promote healthy wetland ecosystems. It is also an effective plant for phytoremediation, the process of using plants to remove contaminants from soil and water. Water sedge can absorb excess nutrients and pollutants from water, helping to improve water quality and promote healthy aquatic ecosystems.

In addition to its ecological benefits, water sedge is a visually appealing plant that can add texture and depth to garden designs. Its tall, slender leaves and delicate flowers make it an attractive addition to wetland gardens, rain gardens, and bioswales. It is also a low-maintenance plant that requires little care once established.

Water sedge is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and soil conditions. It is a good choice for wetland gardens in temperate climates, as it can withstand cold winters and hot summers. However, it is important to avoid planting water sedge in areas with poor drainage, as it can be susceptible to root rot in waterlogged soils.

Water sedge is a versatile and important plant that provides numerous ecological and aesthetic benefits. It is a critical component of healthy wetland ecosystems, and can also be used to improve water quality and stabilize soil in a range of settings. Whether you are interested in creating a wetland garden, restoring a degraded wetland, or simply adding a visually appealing plant to your landscape, water sedge is an excellent choice that is sure to thrive in a variety of conditions.

Water sedge is a key component of many wetland ecosystems, where it helps to create a diverse and thriving habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species. In addition to stabilizing soil and improving water quality, water sedge also provides important shelter and nesting sites for birds, insects, and other wildlife.

One of the unique features of water sedge is its ability to grow in shallow water. This makes it an ideal plant for creating wetland buffers and shoreline stabilization projects, where it can help to protect the shoreline from erosion and provide valuable habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species. Water sedge can also be used to create floating islands, which can help to filter and absorb excess nutrients from water, promoting healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Water sedge is a relatively low-maintenance plant that can be easily propagated through division or seed. It is important to plant water sedge in areas with adequate moisture, as it does not tolerate prolonged drought. It is also important to avoid disturbing wetland habitats, as this can disrupt the delicate balance of these complex ecosystems.

In conclusion, water sedge is a valuable and versatile plant that plays a critical role in wetland ecosystems. It provides numerous ecological and aesthetic benefits, and can be used to improve water quality, stabilize soil, and create diverse habitats for a wide range of plant and animal species. Whether you are a homeowner, landscape professional, or conservationist, water sedge is an excellent choice that can help to promote healthy and thriving wetland ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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