E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Eriophorum virginicum L.
tawny cotton-grass (tawny cottongrass)
Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants
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Distribution of Eriophorum virginicum
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Tawny cotton-grass (a.k.a. tawny bog cotton) is an easily recognized rhizomatous (clonal) species of cotton-grass. Like other species of cotton-grass, it is mostly restricted to peatlands where it can be a prominent component. Eriophorum species in general are boreal in distribution and are mostly circumpolar. The exception is tawny cotton-grass, which is found only in eastern North America from Ontario, Quebec, and Labardor south to the Carolinas. It has been introduced in British Columbia in the Fraser delta, where it can be seen in many delta bogs, including the Lulu Island Bog, Burns Bog, and the Langley Bog. This is a late-flowering species of cotton-grass. As perianth bristles expand in this species they become tawny and brownish. It is anatomically different from other species of cotton-grass. View a video about identifying tawny cotton-grass in the field, with Tony Reznicek.

Species Information

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Perennial herb from rhizomes; stems solitary or few together, stiff, erect, up to 100 cm tall.
Sheaths brownish to purplish, persistent; blades 2-4 mm wide, flat, except at the tips.
Spikes several, terminal, in crowded clusters, the stalks short and nearly equal; anthers 1-1.5 mm long; involucral bracts 2 (3), unequal, leaflike, the longest greatly surpassing the inflorescence.
Scales coppery or brown, blunt or pointed, the midribs prominently 3- to 5-nerved; perianth bristles numerous, tawny or coppery, many times longer than the achenes; achenes 3-3.5 mm long, a third as wide.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Black
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Bogs and wet ditches in the lowland zone; rare in SW BC, known only from the Fraser River delta; introduced from E North America.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

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General References