categoryZGrasses Grasses List 

HARE'S-TAIL COTTON-GRASS

Eriophorum vaginatum

Sedge Club- & Spike-Rush Family [Cyperaceae]

Flowers:
month8mar month8march month8apr month8april month8may month8jun month8june

Pappus: pappusZpossible (white, simple)
pappus8apr pappus8april pappus8may pappus8jun pappus8june pappus8jul pappus8july

category
category8Grasses
status
statusZnative
flower
flower8white
inner
inner8green
type
typeZspiked
stem
stem8round

20th April 2012, Duddon Mosses, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
2012 was the wettest rainiest year on record in the UK, but not until after the hottest sunniest March on record. In April the rains came, and didn't cease for longer than about 2 or 3 days at time until maybe November. Looking like snow in the middle-distance Hare's-foot Cotton-grass takes advantage. Black Coombe on the horizon.


19th June 2013, Wilders Moor, Winter Hill, Horwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The previous year was very wet, the one after very warm and dry from April onwards. The cotton-grasses took advantage of this series of events and smothered the peaty moorland painting the hills and dales white.


20th April 2012, Duddon Mosses, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A cotton-grass which forms tussocks in damp boggy acidic peaty soils, usually uplands, but here not far from the estuary.


21st April 2009, Cheeks Hill, Danebower Quarries, Buxton, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
Between 30-60cm tall. Each tussock contains between 300-600 tillers (the single stem plus 2 to 3 needle-like leaves emerging from a sheath at the bottom.


21st April 2009, Cheeks Hill, Danebower Quarries, Buxton, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
The single inflorescence comprises a dense, tufted cyme containing multi-flowered spikelets at the top in a short spike.


21st April 2009, Cheeks Hill, Danebower Quarries, Buxton, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
The anthers are long, narrow and ribbon-like covered in creamy coloured pollen.


21st April 2009, Cheeks Hill, Danebower Quarries, Buxton, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
The spikelets are greyish-white and narrowly triangular. Old spent anthers are fawn coloured.


31st May 2013, Gorple Gate path, Burnley-Hebden bridge. Photo: © RWD
The fruiting head consists of a mass of hairs at the bottom of which the seeds are attached to be dispersed by the wind. Stem fluted near the top and striated elsewhere.


31st May 2013, Gorple Gate path, Burnley-Hebden bridge. Photo: © RWD
Half'n'half.


31st May 2013, Gorple Gate path, Burnley-Hebden bridge. Photo: © RWD
A fruiting head: the hare's tail: a mass of white hairs.


20th April 2012, Duddon Mosses, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Another half'n'half please.


20th April 2012, Duddon Mosses, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The greyish-white spiklets. Stem minutely ridged/fluted (take your pick).


Not to be semantically confused with : Harestail Grass (Lagorus ovatus) [another Grass Family (Poaceae) plant with a similar name, but which grows near the sea rather than on acid upland bogs] nor with Cirsium eriophorum (Woolly Thistle) a member of the Daisy & Dandelion Family (Asteraceae) nor with Hare's-Foot Clover (Trifolium arvense), a member of the Pea Family (Fabaceae).

Can be mistaken for : other Cotton-grasses such as Common Cotton-Grass (Eriophorum angustifolium), Broad-leaved Cotton-grass (Eriophorum latifolium) or the much rarer Slender Cotton-grass (Eriophorum gracile) but this one is the only Cotton-grass with a solitary spikelet atop, all the others have between 3 to 7 flower spikes per main stem.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature : Easily distinguished from other Cotton-grasses because it is the only one with just one spike atop a stem, the others have multiple (3-7), usually drooping, heads on short stalks.

No relation to : Cottonweed (Achillea maritima) [a plant with similar name belonging to the Daisy & Dandelion Family (Asteraceae)] nor to North-American Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) [a tree to 40m] nor to Cotoneasters nor to Cotton Thistle (Onopordum acanthium) [a thistle].

Although superficially similar to some grasses (Poaceae), Cotton-grasses are in the Sedge Family (Cyperaceae).


  Eriophorum vaginatum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Cyperaceae  

Distribution
 family8Sedge Club- & Spike-Rush family8Cyperaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Eriophorum
Eriophorum
(Cotton-Grasses)

HARE'S-TAIL COTTON-GRASS

Eriophorum vaginatum

Sedge Club- & Spike-Rush Family [Cyperaceae]