More evergreen sedges

Three of our native sedges have broad (for a sedge) leaves and are robustly evergreen. They can be used to add nice textural variety to shady areas of a garden.

The most well-known is called plantain-leaved sedge. It’s leaves are puckered like seer-sucker cloth. When it is happy it can be quite a large sedge, perhaps a foot high. The effect in the garden is something like a narrow-leaved hosta, but evergreen. The photo shows a plantain-leaved sedge in a garden in very early spring. The large leaves have gone through the winter without benefit of snow cover, and yet they still look fairly good, a little browned at the tips. The new leaves are just emerging. The plant is in full, riotous flower. Not impressed? Well, no, sedge flowers are modest. However, they are flowering in April, well before most other wildflowers.

Plantain-leaved sedge flowering in a garden.

The most unusual of the three sedges is called broad-leaved sedge (C. platyphylla). Its leaves are a lovely pale blue-grey colour, showing cross banding. It is smaller than plantain-leaved sedge, making a rosette about 8 inches across. It too is robustly evergreen, to make the most of winter sunshine. Broad-leaved sedge has a restricted distribution: essentially, it grows just on the Niagara Escarpment. Outside of Ontario, it is vanishingly rare. In Ontario, it is well represented all along the escarpment and it can be found growing on bluffs away from the escarpment as well. I grew a few plants from seeds and they survived in my garden for many years. However, they never seemed to root themselves strongly to their site, and several times they were uprooted by raccoons. I think they are well worth adding to a shady rock garden for their winter hardy blue-grey foliage. The photo shows a wild broad-leaved sedge on a dark rainy day in early winter.

Broad-leaved sedge.

The third sedge is called white bear sedge, Carex albursina. At first glance, it looks much like a small plantain-leaved sedge, but it has white bases to its leaves, not brown. Compare them closely, and you will see that the foliage of white bear sedge has a more bluish cast than that of plantain-leaved sedge.


Published by

Trish Murphy

Artist: botanical, still life, and natural history illustration. Garden designer: native plants and naturalistic gardens