New Mexico Wildflowers: Sedge Family



Although some species in the sedge family have "rush" in their names, there's a separate rush family.


Images are organized in alphabetical order by genus and species. Hover over a photo series to control the images.

Emory's Sedge (Carex emoryi)

The top (yellow) flowers are male flowers, the bottom (white) flowers are female flowers. 


Am I 100 percent sure of this ID? Nope. There are hundreds of species of Carex out there. But it's a good visual match. The similar-looking Carex aquatilis isn't supposed to occur below 7000 feet, and I saw this patch in the Albuquerque Bosque, about 5000 feet.


Sedge (Cyperus)

Sedges look like grass but have stems that are triangular rather than circular in cross-section. This sedge is either chufa (aka yellow nutsedge, chufa flatsedge, yellow nutgrass, coquito, tulillo, peonía; Cyperus esculentus) or the very similar rusty flat sedge (Cyperus odoratus).


Common Spike-Rush (Eleocharis palustris)

One May morning I noticed "mini" rushes at the bases of bulrushes and cattails lining a local pond. They almost looked like tufts of grass. Apparently this species can grow up to a meter tall.


Bulrush, Tule, Club-Rush (Schoenoplectus acutus)

This bulrush seems to consist only of a long, continuous green tube topped by a brown flower cluster. The SW Field Guide tab on the plant's SEINET web page states, "This is a stout, round-stemmed bulrush; look for the clusters of spikelets on inflorescence branches a few centimeters long; and the single erect bract which subtends the inflorescence and looks as though it is a continuation of the stem." A bit technical but you can see those characteristics in my photos. 


The SW Field Guide tab on a different SEINET web page describes Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, an Old World bulrush that also occurs in New Mexico. "This is the Eurasian cousin of S. acutus, and they are difficult to distinguish ... There are some who suggest there is no difference. It is no doubt safer to consider them one or the other, but for all intents and purposes, it doesn't matter which is which. Morphologically, they're identical."


The Spanish word for bulrush, tule, made it into American English by way of California. To say that someone lives "out in the tules" (or "tulies" or "toolies") is to claim that they're in an extremely rural area. In effect, that they live in a wetland area, since that's where bulrushes occur. I found mine next to a plunge pool in a channelized arroyo. 



Three-Square Bulrush, Chairmaker's Bulrush, Tule Esquinado (Schoenoplectus americanus)

These plants are large like bulrushes, but the stems have triangular cross-sections like sedges. The Spanish name for this plant, tule esquinado, means "tule with corners."