Nutsedge, sedge, etc. - questions & comment

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

I've lots of questions first.

Ok - here's a definition of yellow nutsedge: Perennial sedge. Yellow spikelettes at top of mature plants. Triangular stem. Reproduces by seed and rhizomes.

We belong to a group of farm folks out in Iowa - don't go there and ask why ;) Anyhow, this was a topic of discussion awhile ago and here were the comments in part: If you thought it was GRASS, you were not alone. Many farmers made the same mistake last summer. Yellow nutsedge is SEDGE and NOT a grass. You can NOT kill it with a grass control herbicide.
Normally, we think of weeds being either a grass or a broadleaf weed. Yellow nutsedge is NEITHER of those. It is a member of the THIRD class of weeds: the sedges. Yellow nutsedge is a perennial weed. It can grow from seed OR from tubers. You can FIND tubers if you dig up the roots on a nutsedge plant. They are brown, round bulbs attached to the roots. You can also see that yellow nutsedge spreads like many of the other perennial weeds do, by RHIZOMES. Yellow nutsedge can ALSO grow from seed. There are clusters of seed at the top of each mature plant. The seed clusters are supported by three, leaf-like structures. The seeds are little yellow spikelettes, and they make yellow nutsedge easy to identify. But the most unusual characteristic about yellow nutsedge is its stem. Yellow nutsedge has a triangular stem. If you feel the plant at the base of the stem and roll it between your fingers, you can feel that it has three sides. A triangular stem means that you have nutsedge. Looking down at a nutsedge plant, you can tell it's a little different from other plants right away because of two things. It has very shiny leaves, and there are three of them instead of just one or two leaves like grass plants would start with. We usually see yellow nutsedge in wetter parts of the fields. We find it in waterways, pothole type areas, and lower parts of fields. I've also seen yellow nutsedge in yards and other places you wouldn't normally expect this type of weed, but in most cases, it's just going to be in wetter soils.

So....when I looked in Botanary there was no definition of 'sedge'. In PlantFiles, there's a great definition of nutsedge from Hazel, but it appears that it's thought more of as a grass. My questions are - is there this 3rd class of weeds? and Is 'sedge' always a weed or is this just an overall term or classification?

And the discussion notes above are from a Farm website out in Iowa where they have problems in large fields of soybeans and corn.


"Sedges have edges; rushes are round; grasses are hollow right up from the ground" This little phrase has always been a help to me. I have no idea where I first heard it but in general, it's pretty accurate.

Here's a website I found that might help-
"a sedge plant has a triangular stem, at least at the bottom, which is also quite solid. Carefully twirl it between your fingertips and you will easily sense its 3-sidedness. Look down upon a sedge plant from the top and you’ll notice that its leaves are 3-ranked. The leaves will be spaced roughly 120 degrees apart as they progress up the stem. Their leaf blades are often pleated and the plants lack the hollow stems and nodes, or joints, of the grasses."

Sedges can be nasty pests in crops. Definitely not something I have ever had to deal with but I feel for the farmers who do.

Here's a definition of sedge from the Yahooligans online American Heritage Dictionary-

Any of numerous grasslike plants of the family Cyperaceae, having solid stems, leaves in three vertical rows, and spikelets of inconspicuous flowers, with each flower subtended by a scalelike bract.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Equisetum posted ahead of me, but since I have all this typed up, I'm going ahead anyway.

There are many many sedges. The genus is Carex; yellow sedge (or yellow nutsedge) is Carex flava. I'm not going to venture to define how many or what is a class of weeds. Most sedges likely to be encountered are indigenous plants to the US, or introduced ornamentals to planted landscapes. I'm not aware of any non-indigenous sedges that have escaped or are considered invasive, but I have not researched this aspect. If a weed is a plant out of place, or one causing economic harm, then the experience with yellow nutsedge outlined above seems to fit in those situations.

Here's a definition from An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada (Nathaniel Lord Britton and Hon. Addison Brown, 2nd Edition, 1970):

The Cyperaceae are grass-like or rush-like herbs. There are about 75 genera and 3200 species, widely distributed. These include Kyllinga, Cyperus, Eleocharis, Stenophyllus, Fimbristylis, Eriophorum, Scirpus, Fuirena, Lipocarpha, Hemicarpha, Dulichium, Dichromena, Rynchospora, Psilocarya, Mariscus, Scleria, Kobresia, Carex, and Cymophyllus.

From the Carex description:

Grass-like sedges, perennial by rootstocks. Culms mostly 3-angled, often strongly phyllopodic, or aphyllopodic. Leaves 3-ranked, the upper elongated or very short (bracts) and subtending the spikes of flowers, or wanting. Flowers monoecious or dioecious, solitary in the axils of bracts (scales). Spikes either wholly pistillate, wholly staminate, androgynous or gynaecandrous. Perianth none. Staminate flowers of 3 stamens, the filaments filiform. Pistillate flowers of a single pistil with a style and 2 or 3 stigmas, surrounded by the perigynium, which completely encloses the achene or is rarely ruptured by it in ripening. Achene 3-angled, lenticular or plano-convex. Racheola occasionally developed.

Species over 1000, widely distributed, most abundant in the temperate zones. Besides the following about an equal number occur in western and southern North America. Specimens can only be satisfactorily determined when nearly or quite mature.

Finally, from Carex flava (Yellow Sedge):

In swamps and wet meadows, Newfoundland to British Columbia, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Montana. Europe. Marsh hedgehog-grass.

That's probably enough botany for anyone.

I posted this comment elsewhere: Know thine opponent.

It may rankle some here at DG to read this, but if your bread and butter depends on being able to grow plants and combat those things that oppose that goal (is that a definition of farming or what?), then there really is no excuse for not getting an ID on a pest by whatever method is at hand or otherwise. May Dave (or the host of other Admins) strike me down, but DG is not the only source of information on plants (though with all our help it is rapidly becoming the go-to place). A quick Google for yellow nutsedge would undoubtedly yield millions of hits for definitions, not to mention control measures if it's considered a pest.

I'm not a farmer, but I pretend to be one here at the Valley. In my previous career, I managed large landscapes for thoroughbred horse farms in KY. Carex flava was a regular pest of irrigated sites (lawns and ornamental planting beds). It did not persist to any extent in sites not highly managed with water. This begins to tell you something about the nature of the beast.

If one is farming in sites that are perennially and persistently wetter, one is going to have to deal with this type of plant. Again, I'm not a farmer of row crops, but I'd bet without being there that the yields off such sites are poorer regardless of the presence of Carex flava.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

I posted this on the other thread, but thought I'd move it to this thread:

"Here's a funny story about nutsedge: Nutsedge is a plant native to the US, but it has spread it's range through cultivation - showing up in grain seeds and settling in quite happily. It didn't really make much of an appearance in this area until the early 1960s, and where it came from seemed to be a mystery to many of the farmers. There were a few who always think they have the answer and in this case it was quite wonderfully fraught. They decided that the Russians were loading their satelites up with weed seeds, especially nutsedge, and programming the satellites to drop the seeds over American farm land. If I hadn't heard one old guy talking about this, I wouldn't be inclined to believe it, but you do have to give him extra credit for the leap of imagination this explanation took!"

In heavy clay soils that keep the moisture, nut sedge can take over a hayfield in a season. Wea re on a ridge top in western NY and all of the ground up here is heavy and wet. It is possible to grow a good corn crop on these soils (we don't raise corn for many reasons, but it is possible) but the greatest loss in crop return is in hayfields and pastureland (cows don't like it) and in the smaller grains - oats and barley around here.

I'm advised by my DH that nutsedge doesn't take over a hayfield. It gets it start in cornfields where there is less competiton from grasses and clovers. Once it is established, you can only hope that the grasses will crowd it into remission (Stan's words!LOL).

This message was edited Feb 18, 2006 10:15 AM

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

"Sedges have edges; rushes are round; grasses are hollow right up from the ground"

Thanks - that's a good rhyme to remember !

Thanks everyone for all the good botany information and discussion. I'm now much more clear on Carex flava and yes, it's quite the opponent for large scale farming operations!


Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Someone brought to our attention today that there may be some confusion here.

Carex flava is yellow sedge. It is an endangered plant in some states.

Cyperus esculentus is yellow nutsedge. It is the pesky plant being discussed here.

Let's not malign the Carex just because it has the misfortune of carrying a common name similar to a weedy pest.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

Thanks Terry for the distinction :)


Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Happy to do so! I had to dig around for this thread after receiving a helpdesk message that took us to task for failing to point out the distinction between the Carex and Cyperus, and not correcting the misstatements made above.

Peoria, IL

I was going to post the same thing as Terry.

Some of our native carex species are well behaved and not nasty like yellow nutsedge at all... I have tried to grow fox sedge in my rain garden but there was too much competition from the other stuff in the RG, so it never got established.

Germantown, TN

I hate Nutsedge and can't seem to stop it!!!!! Please help

There's no quick fix to this one.

I don't think they've come up with any bio controls for this either.

Chemicals don't work all that well regardless of what I use. I must admit I have not tried Manage that is mentioned below. You might want to cut it down, then try to dig down and get as many of the tubers as possible, then till it every time you see it come up. It's a pain in the butt but you'll get it sooner or later. Perseverance.

Response to Herbicides: Yellow nutsedge control with herbicides is difficult because herbicide translocation is complicated by source-sink relationships within and between dormant tubers and germinating tubers and the shoot or growing plant. Most herbicides used affect only the shoots and/or roots and do not kill the tubers (Bayer 1987).

Since tubers can have up to seven viable buds, if a control treatment kills one of them, the tuber can develop another. Therefore, effective herbicide treatments must outlast the tubers’ ability to resprout - i.e. the chemical must remain active for 10 to 12 weeks (Lanini 1987).

Atrazine, bromacil, bentazon, amitrole, oxyfluorfen, glyphosate, EPTC, alachlor, metolachlor, terbacil, pebulate, and MSMA have all been used with varying results on yellow nutsedge. These herbicides generally work best when used in conjunction with other yellow nutsedge control measures (Lanini 1987). Manage® , a newly introduced product, may have potential for nutsedge control (Yoder, pers. comm.), but no detailed information is available at this time.

Response to Cultural MethodsResponse to Cultural Methods: Tillage at four week intervals will deplete the energy reserves of tubers. However, cultivation alone takes at least two years to eliminate yellow nutsedge (Lanini 1987). Cultivation should be carried out throughout the growing season, as long as tubers are sprouting. This strategy will ensure that no new tubers are formed. Fall cultivation, when tubers are dormant, is not an effective control method (Mulligan and Junkins 1976).

Hester, LA(Zone 9a)

The only way to get rid of them is to constantly battle them every time they come up by pulling them, spraying them with powerful stuff, plowing/ hoeing them before they go to seed - if you don't they will take over here. And if you just plow them once, you'll get even more! Finally over time you can get rid of them. We have them "coco grass" & another weed that propagates like sugarcane, "Johnson grass". If you pull 'em & leave 'em in the field & it rains within a week or so, they'll just keep going & multiply.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

We use Kills All and it works pretty good. I get it in mulch.

Denton, TX(Zone 7a)

My mother used to call it "nut grass" she said the only way to get rid of it, was to dig until you got the 'nut' at the end of the plant.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I read recently that there is more than one "nutlet" at the bottom of the plant. I'm always afraid if I dig this weed up, I will miss part of the root or the "nutlets". I do some digging, but I feel more comfortable spraying it with a herbicide. We get it along with our mulch. grrr.

Albany (again), NY(Zone 5b)

Thank you - Useful but depressing thread - they're taking over my lovely lily bed and rising up through the hostas. :( I guess I'm off to go tear up more of them. Were it not a weekly battle, I'd be a bit more tolerant, but this hated plant is making crabgrass compare favorably.

Cynthia (N. Kansas C, MO(Zone 5b)

So, after reading all this, do we know how to kill the stuff? I have pulled it, sprayed it, cursed it :^), and when it rains, it comes up stronger and faster! What do you farmers do to get this out of your field? What can us homeowners do once it starts taking over our yards? (Our neighbors don't do any weed control and it blooms like crazy too!) Are there any home remedies anyone's heard of? (I have read on the internet for hours too and can't seem to "find" an answer how to kill it! Thank you!

Thumbnail by hanseycollie
Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Lately, I have been pulling it up every time I see it. It's probably not doing much good, but how can a plant keep growing if it gets pulled up all the time?. I get tired of digging it, and tired of stoppig what I am doing to go get the herbicide. So, I just pull it out every time I see itl. I can't stand to just walk by it and do nothing.

Norristown, PA(Zone 6b)

My landscaper friend mixed up a bottle of a product called SedgeHammer for me. It does the trick every time. He said that it is available at places that sell chemical controls for agri/horticulture, not a big box store type of place.

Cynthia (N. Kansas C, MO(Zone 5b)

Sedgehammer is the only thing that I've found that works. I buy it online via ebay cheaper than at Earl May's. It's pricey but it really will kill the stuff and believe me, I have researched that horrid weed to death! Anyway, I make up a few gallons of it, spray the areas of the yard with a hand sprayer where I see it and sure enough, a couple weeks later it'll die. Just be sure the Sedgehammer is safe for your grass type. It's well worth the money!!!!

There's power in knowing we CAN kill that dreaded weed!!! :^)

Lincoln, NE(Zone 5b)

Another good word for SedgeHammer here. Used it 2 years now, first year gave me over 90% kill, second year was to catch any dormant nutlets from the previous year, and spots that I missed in the yard. It takes about 2 weeks after you spray before you see the plants starting to brown, but after that they go fast. A bit of overspray caught part of a daylily clump and I got short flower spikes and distorted flowers, so you want to be careful with it around lilies, irises and related plants definitely.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images