Bulbostylis capillaris (Dense-tuft Hairsedge)

Plant Info
Also known as: Tufted Hairsedge
Family:Cyperaceae (Sedge)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies, roadsides, rock outcrops, beaches, waste places
Fruiting season:July - October
Plant height:4 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of spikelet clusters] One to 7 spikelets (flower clusters) on slender stalks of varying lengths all arising from the tip of the stem, usually an open cluster, sometimes more compact. The lowest spikelet has a scale-like bract at the base, its midrib with a bristle-like or leaf-like extension that usually over-tops the spikelet. Spikelets are erect to ascending, lance-shaped in outline, red-brown, 3 to 5 mm long (less than ¼ inch), and few-flowered.

[close-up of spikelet] Flowers are perfect (both male and female parts), each with 1 or 2 stamens, a 3-parted style, and subtended by a scale. Scales are 1.5 to 2 mm long, egg-shaped, blunt to pointed at the tip, hairless or minutely hairy near the tip, red-brown with a prominent green midrib that rarely extends slightly at the tip.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of plant base] Leaves are basal and alternate on the lower stem, erect to ascending to spreading, hairless, wiry with rolled-in edges (involute), up .5 mm wide, up to a third as long as the flowering stem. Sheaths are prominently ribbed on the back. Stems are also thread-like, erect to ascending, unbranched, 3-sided in cross-section, hairless, green, and multiple from the base forming clumps, the clump of stems often of widely varying lengths.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of mature spikelet and achenes] Achenes (seeds) are about 1 mm long, yellowish to pale brown, 3-sided in cross-section, urn-shaped in outline, the surface covered in cross-wrinkles, and with a tiny cap-like appendage (tubercle) at the tip, and lacking any bristles around the base.


Bulbostylis capillaris is an occasional sedge of dry, sandy or rocky soils. In Minnesota, it is most often found on sandy beaches or dunes and in rock outcrops, growing in the thin soil of cracks and shallow depressions. When stems have a single spikelet it may be mistaken for an Eleocharis species, which lack any bladed leaves and usually have bristles around the base of the achenes. It may also be mistaken for Fimbristylis autumnalis, a more rare species which has broader, flat leaves, flattened stems and spikelet stalks, the spikelet clusters are more numerous, often in compound (branched) clusters, and achenes are rather smaller, are variably warty especially around the base, and lack a tubercle.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Yellow Medicine counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Renville and Yellow Medicine counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.