Description & Overview

Palm Sedge is a Wisconsin native with tufts of glossy, green foliage that resemble a palm. As a cool-season plant, leaves emerge from the ground in early spring producing fertile culms, comparable to a flower. Green seeds mature to brown, and eventually either blow or float away.

You may also know this plant as simply Muskingum Sedge.

Core Characteristics

Category: Grasses

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 4

Mature Height: 2-3 feet

Mature Spread: 1 feet

Growth Rate: Perennial

Growth Form: Groundcover, Upright, Spreading

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Site Requirements: Clay, Moist-wet, loam, sand

Flower: Green, matures to brown

Bloom Period: May, June – Late Spring-Early Summer

Foliage: Green, glossy, palm-like

Fall Color: Notes of copper

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Achene, very small (2mm), flattened, carried by water or wind

Suggested Uses

Palm Sedge is found where the soil is consistently damp in wooded lowlands, sedge meadows, and swamps and can tolerate up to four inches of standing water. It is found in eastern-central Wisconsin, as well as in the Driftless Area and near the Menominee Reservation/Waupaca/Shawano area.

Groundcover: Muskingum Sedge has a spreading habit that forms a beautiful groundcover that benefits wildlife considerably more than Pachysandra and Vinca.

Habitat for Waterfowl/Hunting: Waterfowl will use its extensive root system as much-needed cover during summer and migratory flights. Add a duck blind and you’re set!

Restoration/Soil Erosion: Excellent choice when the goal is to restore swamps and lowlands to their previous cover. The extensive root system is effective in stabilizing the soil to prevent erosion. Muskingum Sedge is also a useful component in stormwater management.

Water Garden: As long as there is consistent moisture, this slow-spreading sedge can work in a water garden setting

Muskingum Sedge is not approved for urban landscapes because of its spreading habit. It also requires moist to wet soil, requiring supplemental water if sited incorrectly.

Palm Sedge is a Wisconsin native with tufts of glossy, green foliage that resemble a palm. As a cool-season plant, leaves emerge from the ground in ea…

Wildlife Value

Palm Sedge can form substantial colonies, which then provide cover for a wide variety of animals.

The seedheads are the most desirable part of the plant for wildlife. Waterfowl including the Mallard, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Woodcock, and more dine on seeds as well as use the foliage for cover. Songbirds such as Towhees, Song Sparrows, and Swamp Sparrows also enjoy the seeds.

Many mammals will eat the seeds, but not as their main source of food. These include Black bears, fox squirrels, gray squirrels, and meadow voles.

Leaf beetles consume the leaves, along with various moths, skippers, and butterflies; however, many sources list a particular sedge as an insect’s host plant. While this may be true for some, it certainly isn’t for all. Other sedges would suffice, yet there hasn’t been any documentation to date.

Maintenance Tips

The rhizomatous habit of Palm Sedge can be a bit too rambunctious in a typical landscape setting. If this is the case, hand-pulling unwanted tufts can abate this issue.

In garden situations, cutting back in early spring can help appearances, but sacrifices the cover for wildlife.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: No

Aphids will likely inhabit the plant – this is normal, natural, and part of the prairie ecosystem. There is no need for removal or pesticides: this will affect other eggs that have been laid on the plant by beneficial pollinators.

Leaf Lore

The specific epithet muskingumensis refers to a river in Ohio, which was named after the Shawnee word for ‘Swampy Ground’.

Sedges (Carex spp.) have been used by native peoples in a wide variety of ways though no sources specifically cite Palm Sedge. In general, sedges have had a wide range of uses both culinary, medicinal, and practical. The leaves were eaten raw and were used to treat an upset stomach.

Sedges have been woven into baskets and used to pad the insoles of moccasins.

Companion Plants

Combine with other moisture-loving plants such as Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), Meadow Anemone (Anemone canadensis), Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), Harlequin Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) or Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum), Tamarack (Larix laricina), Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), River birch (Betula nigra), Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), Bog Birch (Betula pumila)

Make a sedge meadow! Incorporate Gray’s Sedge (Carex grayii), Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoidea), and Common Tussock Sedge (Carex stricta) for different textures and diversity. The way sedges move in the breeze is mesmerizing-like you’re looking at ocean waves.

Palm Sedge is a Wisconsin native with tufts of glossy, green foliage that resemble a palm. As a cool-season plant, leaves emerge from the ground in ea…
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Written by Beth DeLain