Botany with an edge: all about sedges

Rhynchospora colorata (white-topped sedge)

Many of us have heard the phrase “Sedges have edges; rushes are round; grasses are hollow right up from the ground” in field biology classes or native plant walks. The saying helps us to distinguish the three graminoid families: the rushes (Juncaceae), grasses (Poaceae), and sedges (Cyperaceae). The sedges are a common sight in Virginia but their diversity often goes unappreciated. Like grasses, many of their distinguishing characteristics are minute.


This expedition will help the Virginia Tech Massey Herbarium’s specimen digitization project. We’ve been fortunate to collect a lot of sedges across Virginia over the years. This bounty leaves us a lot of transcribing though! Your contributions will add the full collection information to these specimens so that they are fully accessible online. Hopefully the transcriptions will help you become familiar with sedge diversity along the way!

Photo credits: Thanks to Tom Potterfield for allowing us to use his sedge photographs to illustrate the expedition (

— Jordan Metzgar,Curator of the Massey Herbarium (VPI)

[Editors note: This expedition is being launched as part of WeDigBio to support an event at Virginia Tech Massey Herbarium]


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