Gray's Bur Sedge

July 20, 2021


Photographer: Dale Hugo

Summary Author: Dale Hugo

This plant is called Gray's Bur Sedge, also known as Mace sedge or Morning Star Sedge. People plant it in flower gardens for an accent of shape and color. The Latin name is Carex grayi, and it is one of about 2,000 species of sedge worldwide and 600 in North America. We found it thriving in clumps while exploring the Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve in Maywood, Illinois nearby the Des Plaines River. This bur is not the same as the bane of my youth, the sandbur (Cenchrus echinatus), which due to its spiky seed head often became stuck in my shoelaces or in dog fur and were miserable to extract.

Image1Unlike sandburs and other “hitchhiker” plants that rely on seeds getting caught on animal fur or clothing for dispersal, Gray’s Bur Sedge seeds are spread by river flooding. This is likely why it thrives in the eastern half of the United States. The seeds and foliage are also an essential source of food for native animals including Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkeys, Wood Ducks, Wood Cocks, Muskrats, Deer and Black Bears. The unique mace or morning star shaped spikes can be between 0.25 to 2.5 inches long (0.6 – 6.4 cm) and are well-visible above the ground as the sedge plants can grow 2.5 feet (0.76 m) tall. The range of Gray's Bur Sedge is extensive as it is dispersed by flooding rivers and thrive in the moist, silty soils and shade of a riparian environment.



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