Description & Overview

Long-beaked Sedge is a cool-season, clump-forming Wisconsin native grass with 24″ semi-evergreen bright green leaves. This cool-season grass begins as an upright clump, then sprawls across the ground, filling in empty spaces with great color and texture. Tufts will put out sterile and fertile culms that shoot out 12″ tall pendulous inflorescences consisting of one to three male and two to five female spikelets. Once pollinated by the wind, the female spikelets develop seeds that are teardrop-shaped, almost wheat-like in appearance, with a long, narrow beak, hence the name. By late summer, the plant may die back to solely leaf basal shoots. Long-beaked Sedge may also be known as Sprengel’s Sedge.

Core Characteristics

Category: Grasses

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 12-36 inches

Mature Spread: 12-24 inches

Growth Rate: Moderate

Growth Form: Clump-forming, arching

Light Requirements: Partial Shade to Full Shade

Site Requirements: Average – moist soil

Flower: Culm reaches 12" – 30" long, light green, 1-3 male spikelets, 2-5 female per shoot

Bloom Period: June – July, late spring – early summer

Foliage: Green, 8-24"

Fall Color: Yellow

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: 10-30 'seeds' per spikelet, each 2.5mm long. The tip is a narrow beak, green-yellow color.

Suggested Uses

Long-beaked Sedge grows well where there is consistent moisture, in a lightly shaded environment. It is naturally found in areas with high organic matter content. Plants will survive in average soil conditions in sun to part sun to shade provided there is enough moisture to offset the bright direct sunlight.

Try planting in masses for a graceful effect, especially when the wind blows! It looks great surrounding a clump of River Birch (Betula nigra) or Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.). This sedge is ideal for a shade garden, preferably in a low-lying area or spot that retains a little more moisture.

Long-beaked Sedge provides a delightful, consistent splash of green in a rain garden, particularly in the shade of other plantings.

Add it along the border of a pond, along stream banks, near ephemeral pools, or in a rich forest setting.

Long-beaked Sedge plays nicely with other woodland shrubs, trees, and flowers. Wouldn’t an understory of wispy grass-like foliage be beautiful?

Wildlife Value

Many insects use sedges (Carex spp.) as their host plant including Mulberry Moth (Poanes massasoit), Duke’s Skipper (Euphyes dukesi), Broad-winged Skipper (Poanes viator), American Ear Moths (Amphipoea americana), Eyed Brown (Satyrodes eurydice), Appalachian Skipper (Satyrodes appalachia), Dion Skipper (Euphyes dion), Two-spotted Skipper (Euphyes bimacula), Henry’s marsh Moth (Simyra insularis), Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris), Reniform Celaena Moth (Helotropha reniformis), Virginia Ctenucha Moth (Ctenucha virginica), Borered Apamea Moth (Apamea sordens finitima), Jutta Arctic Moth(Oeneis jutta), Tufted Sedge Moth (Hypocoena inquinata), Snowy Dart (Anicla illapsa), Slant-lined Owlet (Macrochilo absorptalis), Kidney spotted Rustic Moth (Heltropha reniformis), and the Ponside Crambid Moth (Elophila icciusalis).

Bobwhite Quail, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, Eastern Towhee, and Tree Sparrows feed on the seeds. When the plant reseeds itself, colonies may form and this provides habitat and cover for nesting birds and small mammals.

Maintenance Tips

While there is no real need to do so, you may cut back the foliage to a couple of inches in late winter.

After several years, plants will develop a hollow center which is a reminder that it should be divided. Divide plants in early spring or fall.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

Long-beaked Sedge is not bothered by any pests or diseases.

Heavy rains may cause the plant to flop, though it is quickly replaced with bright, fresh foliage that will cover this up. Cutting down the tallest stems either right before or right after the flop occurs can improve the overall appearance.

Leaf Lore

Wisconsin has roughly 30,000 acres of moderate to high-quality sedge meadows, less than 3% of the 1,135,000 acres estimated to be present before settlement.

There are about 4,000 species in the sedge family Cyperaceae, and the genus Carex holds about 2,000 of those species.

The genus name Carex is the Latin name for “sedge.”‘ The species sprengelii is in honor of a Prussian botanist and physician who conducted some of the first microscopic studies of plants.

Sedges have been used by Indigenous peoples for centuries in a variety of ways. Leaves were woven into twine, baskets, and mats while tying the leaves together in tight bundles made torches and fish traps. A decoction of roots was used to treat snake bites, as emetic, as an aid in childbirth, and for dyspepsia. Sharped-edged leaves were used by men for shaving.

Companion Plants

Plant Long-beaked Sedge alongside Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), Large Flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor), Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), Carrion Flower (Smilax herbacea), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata), Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata), Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginiana), May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum), Purple Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum), Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), and Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica).

Long-beaked Sedge is a cool-season, clump-forming Wisconsin native grass with 24" semi-evergreen bright green leaves. This cool-season grass begins as…
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Written by Beth DeLain