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Virginia Cottongrass Eriophorum virginicum

Phonetic Spelling
er-ee-OH-for-um vir-JIN-ih-kum
Description

This unique sedge, with flowers that look a bit like a shaving brush, is a perennial. It grows in bogs, wet meadows, and many other places with sun and damp or wet soil. It is one of many cottongrass (common name) cultivars with a flower that has a white to tan bristly appearing but soft, cotton like mass 1 to 2 inches across. Many cottongrass blooms are white but this one is often tawny (light brown) in color, hence one of its common names of Tawny cottongrass.  It blooms from June to September. The flowers are perfect, meaning both male and female parts are present. 

The lowest 2 to 5 spikes of flowers each have a leaf-like bract (part between flower and stem) at the base of the stalk, of varying lengths, up to 5 or 6 inches long, and may be upward or downward pointing.  

The leaves are flat, grasslike and few in number, alternating on the stem.  The leaves are simple, meaning that each is a single leaf attached to a stem or twig. This leaf is smooth and hairless.

The sedge is densely clump forming and grows from spreading rhizomes under the soil. It is not common in NC but is native, in general, throughout the eastern half of the U.S. It is more commonly found in northern cooler states. 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#perennial#white flowers#sedge#boggy#meadow#wet sites#wetland#wildflower garden#fluffy#wet soils tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#perennial#white flowers#sedge#boggy#meadow#wet sites#wetland#wildflower garden#fluffy#wet soils tolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Eriophorum
    Species:
    virginicum
    Family:
    Cyperaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    E. Canada to N. Central & E. U.S.A.
    Distribution:
    Widely in eastern US and Newfoundland
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ornamental Grasses and Sedges
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Creeping
    Spreading
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Brown/Copper
    White
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Seeds are 4 mm or less in length.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The smooth leaf is flat at the base with a short sheath and a total length of about 12 inches. The leaf can be round or triangular in cross section, about 4 mm wide.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Pond
    Riparian
    Landscape Theme:
    Rain Garden
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Wet Soil