Gray’s (Morning Star) Sedge
Description & Overview
Gray Sedge is a Wisconsin native broad-leafed grass with arching leaves growing up to two feet tall. It forms a tight clump up to a foot and a half across at the base. Living up to its name, Morning Star Sedge produces a geometric seed head resembling the morning star weapons used by knights and soldiers of the Middle Ages. May also be known as Bur Sedge or Morningstar Sedge.
Gray’s Sedge is a native species that has funky, star-like seed heads with arching to erect sword-shaped foliage. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous which slowly spreads in clumps. This plant grows wild in moist to wet deciduous forests, along streams, swamps, and boggy areas. The fruit adds long-season interest well into winter. They are spiky clubs that are useful in both fresh and dried arrangements. This unusual sedge adds an airy elegance when planted at the edges of ponds, water features, rain gardens, naturalized landscapes, as an understory plant in a woodland area, or even in a decorative container with other moisture-loving plants.
Gray’s Sedge naturally occurs in both wetlands and woodlands. Insects that feed on sedges include the larva stage of the Appalachian Brown Butterfly and American Ear Moth. The leaf-mining larva stage of the Sedge Billbug also commonly munches on Sedge. It should be noted that usually, these insects don’t cause enough harm to the point of being considered a pest. The seeds of Gray’s Sedge, as well as other sedges, are an important food source for many species of birds. Sedges that populate swampy woodlands are eaten by the Ruffed Goose, Wild Turkey, American Woodcock, and the Swamp Sparrow.
Notably, the foliage is unpalatable to Deer.
Morning Star Sedge is a great, low-maintenance plant for those getting started in gardening. It grows best in full sun to part shade conditions. This plant thrives in moist to wet conditions and can tolerate seasonal flooding. It’s intolerant of drought, because of this, we don’t recommend planting in sandy soils. In hot climates, this grass may not reach full height. You may divide clumps in early spring. Dead foliage should be cut to the ground in late fall or early spring. This sedge does not require pruning.
Sedges are tough and generally free of any serious disease or pest issues that threaten their longevity. Powdery mildew and fungal spots have been observed on Gray’s Morning Star Sedge, but these are rare occasions that are hardly worth mentioning.
The specific epithet grayii honors Asa Gray (1810-1888), a leading American botanist and author of Gray’s Manual of Botany. Asa Gray’s extraordinary botanical collection was the foundation of the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University.
The Genus that Sedge belongs to, Carex, is a large genus with over 600 species in North America and approximately 150 of those species are found in Wisconsin. Carex alone makes up about 7% of the flora of the Upper Midwest.
Gray’s Sedge is a plant that can be found in woodlands, swamps, bogs, and along streams across more than half of the Eastern United States. Since this plant thrives in moist to wet conditions, it would do well planted near other plants that prefer the same conditions. Such as J.N. Strain Musclewood, Bog Birch, Willow, Hackberry, Swamp White Oak, Joe-Pye Weed, Asters, Culver’s root, Great Blue Lobelia, and other sedges.