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

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

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Allan Carson  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #25943)

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Distribution of Eriophorum gracile
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Species Information

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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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

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

Habitat / 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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


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) 150 939 1645
Slope Gradient (%) 0 0 16
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
55 179 300
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
4 7 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: BWBS(1), CWH(3), ESSF(3), ICH(3), MS(3), SBPS(9), SBS(13)


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

Additional Photo Sources

General References