Herbs, often resembling Grasses, but usually stiffer, with solid stems and the sheaths of the leaves closed all round. Flowers in little green or brown spikelets, which are either solitary and terminal or several in a compound cluster, spike, or panicle. Each spikelet is in the axil of a scale-like outer bract, and consists of several scalelike glumes, each containing one sessile flower. Perianth composed of bristles or small scales or none. Stamens usually 3 or sometimes 2. Ovary 1-celled, the style being divided into 2 or 3 linear stigmas. Fruit a small, seed-like nut, flattened when the style is 2-cleft, trigonous when it is 3-cleft.

A large family of at least 2500 species, distributed all over the globe, and especially in moist places and near water. Chiefly represented in the Alps by numerous species of Car ex (Sedge).

Scirpus L

Rootstock creeping. Spikelets solitary and terminal or in irregular panicles, heads, or clusters. Glumes imbricate. Perianth-bristles 1-6 or 0, shorter than the glume. Stamens 3. Fruit a compressed or trigonous nut.

A large genus, widely spread over the globe, many species growing in or near water. Very few attain any height in the mountains.

Scirpus Alpinus Schleich

Rootstock creeping and stoloniferous. Stem 5-12 inches high, glabrous like the whole plant, very slender, simple, stiff, rough to the touch, trigonous, furnished with several sheaths at the base. Spikelets small, 5-6 mm. long, with 8-12 flowers. Bracts obtuse, yellowish brown, with a central green nerve. Perianth-bristles white. Fruit compressed, trigonous, 1 mm. long.

Marshes and borders of mountain lakes, from the plains up to at least 8100 feet, as, e.g. by Lac Savine at Mont Cenis. July, August.


Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Pyrenees, Northern and Western Asia; N. America.

Scirpus Caespitosus L

Stem 6-12 inches high, round, stiff, densely tufted, and covered at the base with several imbricated sheaths, the outer ones brown, the inner ones green, with narrow leafy tips. Spikelet about the size of that in the last species, with 6-8 flowers. Outer bracts obtuse, green, as long as the spikelet. Perianth-bristles 4-6, longer than the fruit, which is brown, slightly trigonous, 1 mm. long, mucronate.

Turf bogs and marshes in the plains and mountains up to at least 8100 feet, as by Lac Savine. Often in large quantity. May to August.


Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Europe, except the Mediterranean Coast; Corsica, Algeria, India, N. America, Arctic Europe, Asia, and America. British.

Scirpus Compressus Pers. (Blysmus Compressus Panzer)

Rootstock creeping, stoloniferous. Stems 6-8 inches high, glabrous, round below, trigonous above, leafy. Leaves grass-like, slightly channelled. Spike terminal, brown, about an inch long, consisting of about 10 oblong spikelets, sessile on opposite sides of the axis. Outer bract broad, brown, glume-like, shorter than mature spikelet. Glumes usually 8, imbricated round the spikelet. Stamens 3. Stigmas 2. Bristles 3-6, twice as long as the ovoid, tapering, or mucronate nut.

Marshes and wet, grassy places from the plains up to at least 8250 feet, as on the Aiguille du Goleon in Dauphiny. June to August.


Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Caucasus, Europe, Western and Russian Asia, Himalaya.