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

Eriophorum angustifolium Honck.
narrow-leaved cotton-grass (tall cottongrass)
Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Irmgard & Gerald Carter  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #7785)

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Distribution of Eriophorum angustifolium
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from creeping rhizomes; stems 10-90 cm tall.
Sheaths brownish to purplish or blackish, persistent; blades 2-6 (8) mm wide, flat but becoming narrow and folded toward the tips, the uppermost ones equalling or exceeding the sheaths.
Spikes 2 to 10, terminal, erect, at least some of them pendulous, egg-shaped and 1-2 cm long in flower, 2-4 cm long in fruit; anthers 2.5-4 mm long; involucral bracts several, unequal, 2 or more of them evidently leaflike, the longest ones equalling or surpassing the inflorescence.
Scales brownish or blackish-green, egg-shaped to lanceolate, appressed to ascending, 1-ribbed, pointed, the slender midribs not reaching the tips; perianth bristles numerous, whitish, creamy-white to tawny, many times longer than the achenes; achenes blackish, 2-3 mm long, broadly lanceolate to egg-shaped.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

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

Habitat / Range

Bogs, fens, marshes, shorelines and wet meadows in all vegetation zones; common throughout BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to NH, NC, TN, IA, NE, NM, ID and OR; Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Eriophorum angustifolium

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 7 1189 2240
Slope Gradient (%) 0 3 84
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 352 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
1 6 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(1), BAFA(12), BWBS(12), CDF(1), CMA(1), CWH(126), ESSF(416), ICH(83), IDF(10), MH(75), MS(37), SBPS(10), SBS(114), SWB(2)

Ecological Indicator Information

A very shade-intolerant, submontane to subalpine, circumpolar sedge (transcontinental in North America). Occurs on wet to very wet, nitrogen-poor soils (Mor humus forms) within boreal, cool temperate, and cool mesothermal climates. Common in semi-terrestrial communities on water-collecting sites (peat bogs). Associated with Kalmia occidentalis, Ledum groenlandicum, Sphagnum species, and Trientalis arctica. An oxylophytic species characteristic of nutrient-poor wetlands.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


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.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Eriophorum angustifolium subsp. triste (Th. Fr.) Hultén

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References