Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sedge Prairie

I find this to be a very interesting bit of prairie. At first glance, you would imagine it to be a typical short grass prairie. You would be wrong. This area is dominated by the sedge Carex complanata var. hirsuta. This is an extremely dry site, so most people don’t expect to find sedges at all, let alone a sedge that becomes the most common plant in the mix.

The common name for this plant is Hairy Sedge. You can see how it comes by that name. The leaves are extremely hairy near the base and become less so as you reach the tip.

This low growing plant rarely exceeds one foot in height and doesn’t form a thick sod. The leaves form a good winter ground cover, but there’s plenty of room between plants for forbs to grow. By the middle of summer there will be a variety of prairie flowers blooming above the sedges.

The seeds are developing rapidly and are usually mature by mid summer. Each plant produces many seeds that are easy to germinate. This is one of the sedges that I think would be ideal for a no maintenance lawn, although I know most people would not find it acceptable. For an understanding of how our attitudes towards lawns have evolved, I recommend The Lawn – A History of an American Obsession by Virginia Scott Jenkins. There are times in the book that I’m sure she is talking about my father. The book could startle or anger some people who live in the suburbs.

I found a swarm of these beetles flying from sedge to sedge and occasionally perching on one of the leaves. I don’t know whether they have some special relationship with the sedge or just happened to be coming through that area. Plants are the mechanism by which energy flows into an ecosystem. That energy fuels the insects and other organisms that live among the plants. I use animal diversity to judge how well the plant communities are doing. I pay particular attention to insects since so many of them will complete their life cycles within a small geographic area. These beetles may go generation after generation within this one tiny field. I want to make sure that the plant populations at Blue Jay Barrens are healthy enough to support a wide array of different species.


  1. Your posts are wonderful. So well written. You should turn them into a book. My property is full of sedge and juncus and fringed orchids (purple and white). I absolutely love them all and bring them in to adorn my house so I can enjoy them all winter, too! There's so much to learn about. I have certain sections of my 'lawn' that I declare as "no mow zones". Then I have 2.5 acres of wet meadow that I absolutely covet. I even found a bog plant right smack dab in the middle last year. ~karen

  2. Hmm - I may have to add that book about lawns to my reading list. It's such a fascinating/frustrating subject; I have family in Phoenix and every time I visit I'm disgusted by the amount of water that goes toward irrigation to maintain grass lawns in the middle of a desert!

  3. Thanks, Karen. A wet meadow sounds really exciting. I don't have much chance of getting my feet wet around here, unless it's by the morning dew.

    Rebecca - Definitely read the book if you get a chance. It's sort of written in the style or a graduate research paper,so it gets a bit tedious at times, but the information it provides is truely remarkable.

  4. Thanks, Ted. If the larvae are here and interact with ants, I'm sure my ants would be involved. I'll have to keep an eye out for these. I'll also watch for the buprestid beetles. I'll do a little reading up on both so I'll know what to look for in the field.