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Looks Like Grass, But Its Not Index

Cattail, Horsetail, Sedge, Rush,

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The plants listed in these galleries superficially resemble grass.  Long narrow leaves characterize them.  Most of the plants come from the semiarid county where I live.


Cyperaceae - the Sedge family: Sedges are common in wetlands but can also be found in semi-desert and polar regions.  They have been used to make boats, paper (papyrus), baskets, and hats.  Several groups produce edible tubers (Chinese water-chestnut).  Some are considered weeds because they are so invasive.  Sedges provide habitats and food for many wild animals.  Stems are triangular, "Sedges have edges."


Equisetaceae - the Horsetail family: Like ferns, horsetails are one of the early terrestrial plants that do not have flowers or seeds.  Their cones produce microscopic spores.  During the Paleozoic Era, 360-250 million years ago, these plants dominated the landscape and grew as large as trees.  There is only one remaining genus with only a dozen species, worldwide except Australia.


Juncaceae - the Rush family: The flowers of rushes are very different than grass and sedge.  They have 3 sepals and 3 tepals (petal).  They do not have spikelets.  Stems are flat or round.  Besides materials for mats and baskets, rushes have very little economic value.  They do provide wildlife habitats in wetlands.


Typhaceae - the Cattail family: This family has only one genus, Typha, which are worldwide and called Bulrush by the British.  They have rhizomes and are very invasive in shallow water areas.  The male and female flowers are separate.  Several parts of the roots, young shoots and inflorescence are edible.  The "fluff" is used by people as stuffing and many birds for nests.



Find it

Scientific Name         Scientific Name by Family         Common Name

Texas grass list     Texas "not grass" list      Definitions and Information


Looks Like Grass, But Its Not

Pink number is unidentified species

Cyperaceae - Sedge family

Genus Carex - Sedge

Genus Cyperus - Flatsedge   5

Genus Eleocharis - Spikerush

Genus Fuirena - Umbrella Sedge

Equisetaceae - Horsetail family

Genus Equisetum - Horsetail


Juncaceae - Rush family

Genus Juncus - Rush


Typhaceae - Cattail family

Genus Typha - Cattails


Basic Taxonomy Key

Taken from Introduction to Sedges (Carex:Cyperaceae), by Andrew Hipp


Poaceae (Grasses)

Cyperaceae (Sedges)

Junacaceae (Rushes)


2 ranked (in 2 rows); sometimes appearing leafless

3 ranked (in 3 rows); flat, w-shaped in cross-section, or apparently lacking

Generally inrolled or round in cross-section; hollow or with corss-partitions (you can feel these with your fingernal)


Margins overlapping or fused

Margins fused

Margins overlapping


A flap of tissue at the junction of the sheath and blade, not fused to the blade

A flap of tissue at the junction of the sheath and blade, partly fused to the blade


Floral Scales

2 surrounding each flower (palea and lemma)

1 below each flower

No scales beneath flowers.  6-merous perianth (looks a little like a lily flower)



Bisexual or unisexual

Usually bisexuals, Three(six)-merous



Achene (a hard nutlet)

capsule filled with 3 to many seeds


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