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Sedges

Economically Important Sedges

No species of true sedges (that is, species of Carex) are of current direct economic importance to humans. However, a few species in other genera of the sedge family are worth mentioning in this respect. The papyrus or paper rush (Cyperus papyrus) grows abundantly in marshes in parts of northern Africa and elsewhere, where it has been used for millennia to make paper, to construct reed-boats, to make thatched roofs, to strengthen dried mud-bricks, and for other purposes. There are numerous biblical references to the great abundance of papyrus that used to occur in wetlands in northern Egypt, but these marshy habitats have now been drained, and the species is considered to be rare in that region.

The stems of papyrus and other species of Cyperus and the related bulrushes (Scirpus spp.) have also been used for weaving into mats and baskets. A species that should be mentioned in this regard is the Chinese mat grass (Cyperus tegetiformis), which is commonly used for matting in eastern Asia.

The bulbous tubers of the edible nut-sedge (Cyperus esculentus) and the water chestnut (Eleocharis tuberosa) are harvested and eaten as a starchy food. The water chestnut probably originated in China and the edible nutsedge in Egypt.

A few species of sedges and related plants are considered to be significant weeds in some places. In North America, for example, the edible nut-sedge has escaped from cultivation and has become a weed of wetlands in some regions.

Resources

Books

Judd, Walter S., Christopher Campbell, Elizabeth A. Kellogg, Michael J. Donoghue, and Peter Stevens. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. 2nd ed. with CD-ROM. Suderland, MD: Sinauer, 2002.


Bill Freedman

KEY TERMS

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Achene

—A dry, indehiscent, one-seeded fruit, with the outer layer fused to the seed.

Floret

—A small flower, often with some reduced or missing parts. Florets are often arranged within dense clusters, such as the inflorescences of species in the sedge family.

Inflorescence

—A grouping or arrangement of florets or flowers into a composite structure.

Perigynium

—A sac-like bract that surrounds the ovary or seed in many members of the sedge family.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Jean-Paul Sartre Biography to Seminiferous tubulesSedges - Biology Of Sedges, Sedges In Ecosystems, Economically Important Sedges