Open the Advanced Search

Slender Cotton-grass

Eriophorum gracile

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


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 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:
40 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, mountains, wetland.

White, no petals
Stalked, white, fluffy, cottony flowerheads in clusters of 2 to 5. The stalks are of varying lengths. 3 stamens. Wind-pollinated.
The fruit is a brown, narrowly elliptical achene, up to 3mm long. It ripens in July and August.
There are not many leaves present. They are very narrow, alternate, long and linear with a short ligule. 1 to 2mm in width. Slender Cotton-grass grows together in colonies. Perennial.
Other Names:
Slender Cottonsedge.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


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


Slender Cotton-grass (Eriophorum gracile) is a unique and fascinating plant species that is native to many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. With its delicate appearance and distinctive cotton-like seed heads, Slender Cotton-grass is a remarkable plant that has captured the attention of botanists, naturalists, and gardeners alike.

One of the most distinctive features of Slender Cotton-grass is its delicate, grass-like leaves, which are narrow and typically grow to be about 30 cm in length. These leaves are usually a bright green color and are arranged in dense, tufted clumps, which help to create a lush, green carpet of foliage on the ground.

Another key feature of Slender Cotton-grass is its cotton-like seed heads, which are composed of tiny white fibers that are surrounded by a delicate, feathery bract. These seed heads are produced in late spring and summer and are a favorite food of many species of birds, including geese and ducks.

Despite its delicate appearance, Slender Cotton-grass is a tough and hardy plant that is well-suited to growing in a wide range of conditions. It can thrive in a variety of soils, from wet bogs to dry uplands, and is able to tolerate a wide range of temperatures, from hot and dry to cold and wet.

If you're interested in growing Slender Cotton-grass in your own garden, there are a few things that you'll need to keep in mind. Firstly, this plant prefers a moist and shady environment, so it is best grown in an area that receives filtered sunlight or is partially shaded. Secondly, it is important to keep the soil moist at all times, as Slender Cotton-grass is not well-suited to dry conditions. Finally, it is important to plant this species in an area where it has plenty of room to spread, as it will naturally form large clumps over time.

Overall, Slender Cotton-grass is a beautiful and fascinating plant that is well worth considering for your garden. Whether you're a naturalist, a botanist, or simply a lover of all things green, this unique species is sure to captivate and inspire you.

In addition to its ornamental value, Slender Cotton-grass also has ecological significance. This plant is an important component of many wetland ecosystems, as it helps to regulate water levels, reduce soil erosion, and provide habitat for a wide range of wildlife species.

For example, Slender Cotton-grass is an important food source for many species of birds and mammals, including geese, ducks, and muskrats. It is also a critical component of the diet of the Arctic hare, which is found in the cold, wet tundra regions of the northern hemisphere.

In addition, Slender Cotton-grass plays a vital role in the water cycle, as it helps to absorb and store water in the soil, reducing the risk of flooding and soil erosion. This plant is also an important source of organic matter, as it decomposes over time, adding valuable nutrients to the soil.

Despite its many ecological benefits, Slender Cotton-grass is threatened in some parts of the world, as wetland habitats are drained or destroyed to make way for agriculture, urban development, and other land uses. In order to protect this valuable species and the ecosystems it supports, it is important to preserve and protect wetland habitats, and to engage in conservation efforts to restore degraded or damaged habitats.

In conclusion, Slender Cotton-grass is a remarkable plant that is both beautiful and ecologically important. Whether you're a gardener, a naturalist, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, this unique species is sure to impress and inspire you.

In terms of cultivation, Slender Cotton-grass is relatively low maintenance and easy to care for. This plant is best grown in moist, well-drained soils, in an area that receives partial shade or filtered sunlight. It is important to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged, as the plant is not tolerant of standing water.

To establish Slender Cotton-grass in your garden, it is best to plant it in the spring or fall, when the soil is moist and temperatures are cool. Space the plants about 15-20 cm apart, and mulch the soil around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Once established, Slender Cotton-grass will spread naturally over time, forming dense clumps of foliage. It is important to periodically remove any dead or yellowing foliage, as this will help to maintain the overall health and appearance of the plant.

Another important aspect of Slender Cotton-grass cultivation is to provide proper winter protection, especially if you live in an area with harsh winters. This plant is hardy to USDA hardiness zones 2-8, but it is still susceptible to damage from extreme cold, ice, and heavy snow. To protect the plant over winter, you can cover the foliage with a layer of evergreen boughs or a winter mulch, or simply leave the dried seed heads standing for added winter interest.

In terms of companion planting, Slender Cotton-grass is often grown with other wetland species, such as sedges, rushes, and wildflowers. This not only enhances the beauty of the garden, but also provides additional ecological benefits, as these species support a diverse range of wildlife.

Finally, it is worth noting that Slender Cotton-grass is also a popular choice for use in landscaping and garden design, especially in naturalistic and woodland gardens. This plant can be used as a groundcover, as a border planting, or as an accent plant, depending on your design preferences and the needs of your garden.

In conclusion, Slender Cotton-grass is a versatile and hardy plant that is well-suited to a wide range of garden and landscaping applications. Whether you're looking to create a beautiful and functional wetland garden, or simply to add a touch of natural beauty to your yard, this unique species is sure to impress and inspire you.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map