This section is from the book "Sub-Alpine Plants Or Flowers Of The Swiss Woods And Meadows", by H. Stuart Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Sub-Alpine Plants: Or, Flowers of the Swiss Woods and Meadows.
Characters and habit of Scirpus, except that the bristles finally protrude far beyond the glumes, forming white, silky or cottony tufts, and hence the English name of Cotton-grass. The style is usually 3-cleft.
Only about a dozen species are known, restricted to the temperate and cold regions of the northern hemisphere. Several are frequent at considerable elevations in the Alps and other mountains.
Rootstock creeping, branched, putting up solitary culms, but no tufts of leaves. Stems tufted, 6-10 inches high, with imbricate sheaths at the base; the inner ones with short leafy tips. Spikelets small, brown, and terminal. Glumes obtuse. After flowering the bristles form a white, silky tuft, nearly an inch in length. With the exception of these silky hairs the plant closely resembles Scirpus ccespitosus, the Tufted Scirpus.
Turfy Alpine, sub-alpine, and Arctic bogs, descending to the plain; local. May to July.
Carpathians; Sudetic Mountains; Central and Western Alps; Black Forest; Jura; Russian Asia, Arctic Europe, Asia, and America. Extinct in Britain(?), it having formerly been found near Forfar.
Like E. Scheuchzeri, but taller and with more numerous leaves which are rough at the edges, while those of that species are soft and smooth. The root is not stoloniferous, and the stems are in compact tufts and furnished with broad sheaths at the base, with only a very short blade. Leaves linear, almost subulate, shorter than the stem. Spikelet solitary, terminal, ovoid, of a deep olive-green. Silky bristles very numerous, at length forming white, cottony tufts about an inch in diameter. These tufts are nearly globular as in the last species.
Turfy bogs and wet places from the plains up to the high mountains. May to July.
Northern and Central Europe; Caucasus; Siberia, North America. Common in the British Isles.
Stem 1-2 feet high. Root creeping, stoloniferous. Leaves few, shorter than the stem, channelled, and more or less triangular. Flowers in a terminal umbel of several spikelets, some almost sessile, others stalked and drooping. Outer bracts rather leafy. Silky bristles very numerous, forming oval, cottony tufts, 1-1 1/2 inch in length.
Bogs and wet places, from the plains up to the lower mountains. May to July.
The commonest species in Europe, Northern Asia, and North America. British.
Stiff and rush-like herbs. Glumes in 2 opposite rows. Spikelets in compressed terminal bracteate heads. Flowers few, bisexual. Bristles 1-6. Stamens 3.
Tufted with stiff, rush-like stems, 12-18 inches high. Leaves short, stiff, almost radical, with dark, glossy brown sheaths. Spikelets dark shining brown or almost black, sessile, in compact, terminal heads, with 2 or 3 broad, brown bracts, one of which has a stiff, erect needle nearly an inch long. Glumes pointed, keeled, and rough at the border.
Marshes, in a variety of situations, and mountain bogs. May, June.
Europe, Caucasus, Western Asia, N. Africa. British.