I Love Sedges!
“And what,” you may ask, “ is a sedge?”
A sedge is a grass-like plant that has solid triangular stems as opposed to the round, hollow stems of grasses. “Sedges have edges” is a popular aphorism, that cleverly describes the difference. It is not always true, but it is often enough to make it a reliable indicator to distinguish between sedges and grasses.
Sedges grow in prairie, savanna, woodland, and wetland, some in shade and some in sun. Dick Young lists and shows drawings of 74 species in his book Kane County Wild Ones & Natural Areas–I can probably identify a dozen. Their bloom, while somewhat inconspicuous, is beautiful. Some are rhizomatous or running; others are clump forming.
One of the most abundant is Common Oak or Pennsylvania Sedge or as it is most often called, Penn Sedge (Carex pensylvanica). The light green, grassy, 6 to 12” arching blades spread by rhizomes creating colonies in oak savannas and woodlands. While it is planted for its grassy foliage, its yellow spikelets bloom prettily in April and May. Plant a matrix of Penn Sedge or other sedge under all your trees–especially street trees. In addition to being beautiful, sedges serve a practical purpose, as well–that of being a “grass mulch”. Their dense root system holds water like a sponge, keeping the tree hydrated without extra watering.
You may intersperse sedges with shade-loving, spring wildflowers such as Spring Beauty, Early Meadowrue, Jacob’s Ladder, Wild Blue Phlox, Red Trillium, Wild Geranium, or Shooting Star.
I bought a Red Oak from the city for my parkway in April 2009 and planted a flat (32 plugs) of Penn Sedge around the tree. (Those are Prairie Alum Root flowers in the foreground.)
Today May 2011
The Penn Sedge and the Wild Geranium have completely filled in under the tree.
Ecologically sound and beautiful!
Last week, our Northern Kane County Chapter of Wild Ones had a garden walk of adjoining properties, both landscaped with the same native plants, but with different approaches.
This one is designed in a gardenesque fashion with large clumps of Penn Sedge under a Redbud here and throughout the gardens.
This slope is planted in a more naturalistic style with Wild Geranium mixed in with the Penn Sedge. The tree is Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana).Sedges are not generally available at nurseries because there is no call for them. Midwest Groundcover in St. Charles, Il. and Possibility Place Nursery in Monee both carry them. If any of you know of other nurseries or garden centers that carry them let me know and I will list them.