Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Sedges are often overlooked and underappreciated. Unbeknownst to many, grasslike sedges (Carex) are the largest genus of native flowering plants in North America and found in nearly every habitat ..from wetlands, to arid sandy soils, to forests to sun baked road beds. There is a native sedge adapted to any habitat, including your lawn.
In fact, sedges are an excellent choice for gradually replacing your lawn with a sustainable plant that needs no mowing or watering. Sedges can withstand light foot traffic and are deer resistant. Seasonal bulbs like tulips and daffodils can be planted between clumps. The trick is finding the sedge plant that is best suited to your specific soil type and light availability, be it sunny or shady.
Check with your local nursery for advice on which of dozens of varieties would be suitable. Or go online when making your selection at https://hoffmannursery.com/assets/files/files/HoffmanNursery_CarexChart.pdf
Sedges popular with Midwestern gardeners include Oak Sedge, Wood Sedge, Gray’s Sedge and Sprenger’s Sedge.
Identifying sedges is easy. They look like grass clumps but have solid triangular stems. Even in the north, they are mostly evergreen. A favorite saying of botanists in regard to identification is “sedges have edges.” Although originally associated with wetlands, today they are found all over the world except Antarctica.
Sedges also provide habitat and food for pollinators like caterpillars and butterflies as well as wild turkeys, and song birds like sparrows. Depending on the variety, they grow 12 to 24 inches high and are members of the cattail family. Sedge leaves vary from short and fine to bold and wide.
And if you are ever inclined to visit the Shakespeare Garden next to the Hackley Public Library in Muskegon, check out the bard’s favorite plants, including sedges. He refers to them in Much To Do About Nothing, Act 2, Scene 1.