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Broad-leaved Cotton-grass

Eriophorum latifolium

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, Bristle Sedge, 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:
45 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, meadows, moorland, mountains, wetland.

White, no petals
Fluffy white flowers which resemble balls of cotton wool.
A brown achene.
Long, green, linear leaves. Very similar in appearance to the much more frequent Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) but the leaves are wider and flat. Common Cotton-grass has narrower, V-shaped leaves. No ligules are present. Perennial.
Other Names:
Common Cotton-grass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Eriophorum latifolium, also known as the common cottongrass or broad-leaved cotton-grass, is a species of flowering plant in the family Cyperaceae. It is native to northern latitudes in Europe, Asia, and North America, where it grows in wetland habitats such as bogs and fens. The plant is herbaceous and has a creeping rhizome. It produces dense, fluffy clusters of white flowers in the summer. Eriophorum latifolium is an important food source for many species of wildlife, and it is also used medicinally and as a natural dye.


Broad-leaved Cotton-grass, also known as Eriophorum latifolium, is a unique and fascinating species of flowering plant that is native to the cold, wet tundras of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of the world. This plant is a member of the Cyperaceae family and is closely related to other species of cotton-grass such as Eriophorum angustifolium and Eriophorum vaginatum.

One of the most distinctive features of Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is its soft, white, cotton-like inflorescences, which are produced in abundance during the spring and summer months. These inflorescences are made up of tiny flowers that are surrounded by numerous, delicate white bristles. These bristles give the plant its cotton-like appearance and provide a striking contrast against the green foliage and mossy tundra landscape.

The foliage of Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is just as distinctive as its inflorescences. The leaves are long and narrow, and are typically a bright green color. They are arranged in a dense rosette at the base of the plant and can grow up to 60 centimeters in length.

The growing habits of Broad-leaved Cotton-grass are well adapted to the harsh, challenging environment of the tundra. The plant is able to withstand long, cold winters and short, cool summers by utilizing a deep taproot that allows it to extract nutrients and moisture from the soil. Additionally, the dense, compact foliage provides a barrier against the strong winds that are common in these regions.

Another unique feature of Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is its habitat. This species is typically found growing in bogs, fens, and other wetland habitats. These environments provide the plant with the ideal conditions it needs to thrive, including an abundance of moisture and nutrient-rich soil.

Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is a remarkable plant species that is well adapted to the harsh conditions of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Its soft, cotton-like inflorescences and distinctive green foliage make it a beautiful and eye-catching addition to any wetland or tundra landscape. If you're interested in learning more about this unique species, or if you're looking to add it to your own garden, be sure to check with local botanical gardens and nurseries for availability and growing tips.

Additionally, Broad-leaved Cotton-grass plays an important role in the ecosystem of the tundra. It provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife species, including migratory birds, insects, and small mammals. For example, the cotton-like seeds of the plant are an important source of food for geese and other waterfowl, while the dense foliage provides shelter and protection for small mammals such as voles and lemmings.

Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is also a valuable plant for the indigenous people of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. For centuries, these people have utilized the plant for a variety of purposes, including using the fibrous material to stuff mattresses and make clothing. The leaves and stems of the plant were also used for basket-weaving, and the plant was an important source of food for both humans and livestock.

Despite its importance, Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is facing a number of threats in the wild. One of the biggest threats is climate change, which is causing the tundra to warm and dry, making it increasingly difficult for the plant to thrive. In addition, human activity, such as oil and gas drilling, mining, and commercial development, is also having an impact on the habitat of the plant.

To help protect this valuable species, it is important to continue to study and monitor populations in the wild. Additionally, conservation efforts such as habitat restoration and protection, and the implementation of sustainable resource management practices, are critical to the long-term survival of Broad-leaved Cotton-grass.

Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is a remarkable and valuable species that is well worth learning more about. Whether you are a nature lover, a botanist, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the tundra landscape, this unique and fascinating plant is sure to captivate and inspire you.

It's also worth mentioning that Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is a valuable indicator of the health of tundra ecosystems. This species is sensitive to changes in the environment, and its presence or absence can provide valuable information about the overall health of the ecosystem. For example, a decline in the population of Broad-leaved Cotton-grass can indicate that the ecosystem is becoming less healthy, which could be due to a variety of factors, including changes in water levels, nutrient levels, and the presence of pollutants.

In order to study and understand the ecology of Broad-leaved Cotton-grass, it is important to consider its life cycle and how it interacts with its environment. The plant is a perennial, meaning that it lives for several years, and it reproduces both sexually, through the production of seeds, and asexually, through the production of new shoots from the base of the plant.

In addition to its ecological significance, Broad-leaved Cotton-grass also has cultural significance. In many indigenous cultures, the plant is considered to be a symbol of resilience and adaptation, as it is able to thrive in the harsh, challenging conditions of the tundra. It is also associated with traditional spiritual practices and is often used in traditional medicine.

In conclusion, Broad-leaved Cotton-grass is a valuable and important species that plays a critical role in the tundra ecosystem. Its ecological, cultural, and economic significance make it a valuable subject of study and conservation, and it is an important part of the heritage of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. If you have the opportunity to visit these regions, be sure to take the time to appreciate this amazing species and the unique and beautiful landscape it inhabits.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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