24 May 2002

Greater Tussock Sedge

THE Greater Tussock Sedge was probably an inspiration for the Triffid but thankfully it is much more benign to humans and particularly beneficial in providing shelter to smaller animals.

The sedge grows to over 1m (3ft) in height forming its own pedestal with the long narrow foliage hanging down forming the tussock. Underneath, the compacted root system becomes rather like a tree stump supporting the tussock. The individual plants, in a well-established group, often grow together forming a dense mat and creating a sheltered environment, sometimes referred to as a microclimate.

At Marchweeke Farm near Tiverton, Simon and Julie Preece farm 75ha (185 acres) of rolling Devon countryside – and the sedges include some which are over 100 years old. Greater Tussock Sedge is very coarse, providing only rough (very rough) grazing and requires little except a good supply of clean water, the flow here is testament to the Preeces high farming standards. The sedge is primarily found in southern areas of Britain and its typical habitat is a sheltered marshy area which remains moist throughout the year. Its attraction to wildlife is that it creates a warm sheltered environment where many animals, some rare, can over-winter. The range of animals using the shelter provided stretches from small mammals, amphibians and reptiles to beetles and insect larvae.