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Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Learn about the 'Hair of the Earth'

Oehme palm sedge


Which came first--Sedges or Grasses?

At a recent talk I was asked which plants are older--Sedges or Grasses? I guessed sedges.  However, when I looked this up and saw Wikipedia’s evolutionary tree showing the monocots like grasses and sedges near the top as younger plants. I am not sure we know which evolved first, but I think its probably a simple grass and sedges came later?

Which are more plentiful?

As far as numbers go and which are more plentiful? Grasses are considered the “hair of the earth” for what they cover in acreage. Think of the geographic names given to grass: pampas, steppe, savanna, plains, prairie.

Worldwide Poaceae is the 5th largest family in terms of species, with 700 genera and 11,000 species.

What about Minnesota?

However, in Minnesota, despite our original prairie, the Cyperaceae or sedge family is a force here! Welby Smith’s Sedges and Rushes of Minnesota lists 15 genera and 217 species in Minnesota; largest genus is Carex. Ownbey and Morley Vascular Plants of Minnesota list 12 genera in the Sedge family with 224 species 155 of which are Carex. These authors list 67 Poaceae with 189 species, some of which are introduced.

So I am calling it a tie for sedge and grass species in Minnesota! We have a lot of both sedges and grasses.  Some consider this the center of origin for sedges in North America.
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Read more about grasses and sedges on the GrassTalk blog, written by Extension Educator Mary Meyer.

Author: Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor

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