Hairy Sedge (Carex hirta) is a member of the diverse Monocotyledon Cyperaceae or sedge family. This family of rhizomatous or tufted perennial plants can be distinguished from grasses or rushes by the distinct triangular shaped stem. This one, the hairy sedge is common throughout the UK in rough grasslands and damp areas, and on Whiteknights campus in particular in the damp grasslands around the lake.
The Hairy Sedge gets its name from the dense covering of fine hairs all over the sheath and leaves, even producing hairy fruits. The reduced flowers or spikes form between May and June, with the dry fruit or utricle appearing from June to July. The flowers of Carex bear little resemblance to “normal” flowers, each one consisting of a single bract (glume) enclosing the reproductive parts of the flower. Flowers are combined into spikelets, themselves combined into a larger inflorescences.
All Carex species are monoecious; each flower is either male or female. A few species are dioecious. The female flowers are distiguishable from the males flowers by the single bottle-shaped bract that surrounds each female flower. The characteristics of both male and female flowers are essential for accurate identification, making distinguishing species difficult when not in flower. But in the case of hairy sedge the very hairy leaves are a dead give-away, no other UK sedge species is so hairy!
(Photo Author: Stemonitis: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carex_hirta_utricles.jpg)