Eriophorum gracile W.D.J. Koch
slender cotton-grass (slender cottongrass)
Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Allan Carson     (Photo ID #25943)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Eriophorum gracile
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

Perennial, loosely tufted or turf-forming herb from slender, much-branched rhizomes; stems arising singly, slender, triangular in cross-section, at least above, (15) 20-60 cm tall.
Basal sheaths brownish to reddish-brown, cross-wrinkled, persistent, lacking young basal leaves at flowering time; leaves basal or stem, shorter than the stem, the stem leaves 2 or 3; blades 0.8-1.5 (2) mm wide, elongate, narrow and folded towards the tips or triangular in cross-section, the uppermost leaves with reduced blades usually shorter than the well-developed sheaths.
Spikes 2 to 8, terminal, erect, in compact to open, umbrella-like cymes, the stalks slender, unequal, circular in cross-section, tapered, not evidently compressed, minutely stiff short-hairy, egg-shaped and 0.5-1 cm long in flower, 1.5-2 (2.5) cm long in fruit; anthers mostly 1-3 mm long; involucral bracts several but only one of them evidently green and leaflike, usually shorter than the inflorescence, not purplish basally.
Scales blackish-green to greenish-brown or greyish, egg-shaped to lanceolate, appressed to ascending, the slender midribs not reaching the tips, blunt; perianth bristles numerous, white or whitish, many times longer than the achenes; achenes straw-coloured or light brown, 2.5-3.5 mm long, narrowly egg-shaped to narrowly lanceolate.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

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


Ecological Framework for Eriophorum gracile

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)
939 150 1645
Slope Gradient (%)
0 0 16

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

179 55 300
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
7 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class

All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in

BWBS(1), CWH(3), ESSF(3), ICH(3), MS(3), SBPS(9), SBS(13)

Habitat and Range

Bogs, marshes and lakeshores in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; infrequent in BC, absent from NW BC, Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island; circumpolar, N to AK and NT, E to NF and S to ME, MA, PA, IN, IL, IA, NE, CO, ID and CA; Eurasia.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia