Flanders Moss NNR
The weather has been bonkers this past week. Snow, in May? Even for Scotland, that’s impressive! But soon we will a different kind white blanket on Flanders – the cotton grass is beginning to transition from flower to fluffy seed heads, which give this beautiful little plant it’s name. Both standing out against the (sometimes very formidable) dark skies, and shining during sunny spells, it is now beginning to pop up all across the reserve.
Cotton grass is one actually a bit of a misleading name, as it’s not a grass at all, but a type of sedge. But what’s the difference!? Try remembering this neat little rhyme:
“Sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses are hollow, straight to the ground.”
If you were to take the stem of a plant and examine it, you will find that rushes are smooth and round, while sedges, being more triangular, will have sharper edges to their stems. When compared to grass, which has a hollow stem, sedges are solid. These may seem like small differences, but they are big enough in the plant world to warrant separate classification.
There are two kinds of bog cotton – common cotton grass (which has multiple fluffy flowers) and hare’s tail (which has only one flower per stem). If you need an easy way to remember this, remember that a hare has only one tail!
Cotton grass also goes by another common name which is – quite appropriately – bog cotton. This plant can survive quite happily in wet, nutrient poor, acidic peat soil, making it a common feature across boggy ground. If you spy cotton grass while out and about, watch your step!
Over the next few weeks we should see even more bog cotton appearing, and hopefully it will be accompanied by a ray of sunshine or two.