Sedge a notorious family of pests

Large families are always an interesting collection of
individuals with curious, and occasionally unique characteristics, but still
have a common connection running through all the relations. Getting members
together reveals both the similarities and the differences.

Holiday get-togethers frequently highlight the vast
variations. There is always the uncle with the tacky jokes, the quiet cousin
with the thick glasses and the provocateur who will question everyone about
topics which are best left unaddressed.

Even so, there is always a thread connecting the diverse
collection of characters. Overused first names, (natural) hair color, or
physical height can be some of the factors which visually link the family
despite their differences.

Residents of Franklin and Gulf counties, both native and
non-native, containing chlorophyll have many examples of this concept. The
sedge family is an excellent example of a varied group with a common and
visually identifiable trait.

Cyperaceae, as the collective family is known, has 88 genera.
Each genus is like an individual family’s surname, and explains how the plant
world’s Smiths and Jones are related.

Most human residents of North Florida have encountered one or
more sedges in the home lawn, but they numerically are more common in the
untended acreage in the area. For the homeowner who obsesses over their lawn,
sedges are generally considered pests to be promptly eliminated.

One of those landscape interlopers common to the area is
globe sedge (Cyperus globulosus). This perennial has a
distinctive seed head which starkly contrasts with other turf and other grassy

Sometimes confused with sandspurs, which is not a sedge, this
sedge’s seed head has a spiky appearance. It is not a threat to bare feet as
they are not sharp or stiff enough to pierce skin.

The seed produced usually does not travel too far, unless
there is a very heavy flooding rain. As such, after a year or two there will be
a cluster of these weeds growing in close proximity. Additionally, propagation
is accomplished by rhizomes to fill in the gaps close to the parent plant.

During the spring and early summer, it is able to disguise
itself and hide among lawn grasses, and it will take close mowing. The color of
this sedge is slightly different from traditional turf, and the leaves’ shape
does not match, but it is rarely notice among the thousands of grass blades in
the typical yard.

Much like preferred grasses for panhandle Florida’s yards,
this species grows best in full sun exposure. To the consternation of turf
snobs, this species will be green and flourishing when centipede grass and St.
Augustine are showing stress because of dry weather.

Globe sedge has a fraternal twin, Cylindric sedge (Cyperus retrosus) which grows in the area also. The
difference is its seed head is cylindrical.

The most notorious local sedge is an exotic invasive weed,
purple nutsedge. Of the approximately 5,500 known sedge species worldwide, this
one is locally the most problematic.

It is exceptionally aggressive in its conquest of new
territory. From a single nutlet at the center of its root system, it sends
multiple roots which produce interconnected plants.

If pulled, the delicate roots detach from the remaining
plants which will function individually and begin the process again. This
ill-behaved cousin from overseas has two similarities to the locals.

The first is the generally grass-shaped leaves, and the
second is the triangular stem. Side-by-side, they look different, but the
similarities are recognizable by most observers.

Good, bad or indifferent, family traits are hard to deny.

To learn more about
these lawn nuisances in Franklin and Gulf counties, contact the nearest UF/IFAS
County Extension Office or visit To read more stories by Les Harrison
visit: and follow me on Facebook.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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