Eriophorum viridicarinatum (Green-keeled Cottongrass)
|Also known as:||Thin-leaf Cotton-sedge, Tassel Cotton-grass,|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; wet; bogs, conifer swamps, marshes, fens, wet meadows, wet woods, shores|
|Plant height:||8 to 36 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Three to 30 stalked spike clusters all arising from the tip of the stem, with numerous flowers spirally arranged on a spike. Spikes are generally oval-elliptic when flowering, becoming more cone to fan-shaped in fruit. Stalks are of varying lengths from 3/8 to 2+ inches long, mostly nodding. Flowers are perfect (both male and female parts) with 3 stamens, a 3-parted style, and 10 or more straight, smooth, thread-like bristles surrounding the base.
The lowest 2 or 3 stalks each have a leaf-like bract, the base usually green, sometimes brown, the longest up to 2¾ inches long and usually over-topping the spikes. Each flower is subtended by a single scale, 4 to 6 mm (to ¼ inch) long, lance to egg-shaped, blunt to pointed at the tip, blackish-green to gray-brown, usually darker at the tip end, with minute teeth along the edges at the tip end, and a prominent midvein that is enlarged at the tip end and extends to the tip of the scale, sometimes a little beyond.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are few, basal and alternate, 2 to 6 mm wide, up to 12 inches long, more or less flat at the base but triangular in cross-section towards the tip. The uppermost leaf is much longer than its sheath. Sheaths tightly wrap the stem and are green with a narrow band of translucent tissue around the tip edge.
Stems are about 1 mm diameter, single or loosely clumped, unbranched, erect, nearly round in cross-section, and hairless. Plants can form colonies from long creeping rhizomes.
The bristles around the base of a flower elongate with maturity, becoming ½ to 1+ inch (to 30mm) long, white to cream-colored.
Achenes (seeds) are 2.5 to 3.5 mm long, brown, 3-sided in cross-section, narrowly urn-shaped in outline, widest near the tip.
Eriophorum viridicarinatum is an occasional sedge of bogs, tamarack swamps and wet meadows, found mostly in the northern third of the state. The Cottongrasses in Minnesota are separated into two groups: those with an erect, hemispheric to round seed head, and those with multiple, distinctly stalked, nodding spikes. The latter group includes E. angustifolium, E. gracile, E. tenellum and E. viridicarinatum. E. viridicarinatum is identified by its loose colonies, stems single or loosely clumped, leaves more than 2mm wide and flattish at the base, the uppermost leaf blade usually longer than its sheath, 2 or 3 leaf-like bracts green or brown at the base, 3 to 30 slender-stalked spikes (the most of all MN Cottongrasses) most of which are nodding in fruit, and blackish-green to gray-brown floral scales 4 to 6 mm long with a midrib that is enlarged towards towards the tip and extends to the scale tip, sometimes beyond. The tips of sheaths are green, not darkened.
E. angustifolium is most similar but is distinguished by bracts purple to black at the base, sheaths slightly inflated and usually purplish at the tip, and floral scales 5 to 10 mm long with a midrib that fades away towards the scale tip. E. gracile and E. tenellum are both smaller plants with slender stems less than 1 mm wide, channeled leaves not more than 2 mm wide, a single leaf-like bract, and floral scales not more than 4.5 mm long.
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- Eriophorum viridicarinatum plant
- Eriophorum viridicarinatum plant
- Eriophorum viridicarinatum plants
- fresh scales on immature spike
- dried scales on mature spike
- comparison of Eriophorum angustifolium and E. viridicarinatum scales
Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Beltrami and St. Louis counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?