Cyperus odoratus (Fragrant Flatsedge)

Plant Info
Also known as: Rusty Flatsedge
Family:Cyperaceae (Sedge)
Life cycle:annual, short-lived perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; wet sandy or muddy soil; shores, banks, marshes, mudflats, ditches
Fruiting season:August - October
Plant height:4 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of spikelet clusters] 2 to 10 clusters up to 1 inch long at the tip of the stem, each cluster loosely to densely packed with 20 to 60 spikelets (flower clusters), sometimes more, the spikelets arranged bottle-brush fashion on all sides of the cluster stalk, widely spreading with those at the tip erect to ascending. Auxiliary clusters have stalks ½ to 3 inches long and 1 to 3+ clusters at the tip of a stalk, but the clusters are often all congested at the top of the stem. At the base of the group of clusters are 5 to 8 leaf-like bracts of varying lengths, flat to V-shaped in cross-section, 4 to 10 inches long, all spreading to ascending.

[close-up of spikelets] Spikelets are cylindric to slightly flattened, linear-oblong in outline, 8 to 25mm (1/3 to 1 inch) long, with 8 to 25 florets, sometimes more, each subtended by a scale. Florets have 3 stamens and a 3-parted style. Scales are 1.7 to 3mm long, yellowish to tan to reddish-brown, elliptic to egg-shaped, 1 to 3-ribbed per side with a green midrib that is blunt or pointed at the tip. The scales are arranged on opposite sides of the central spikelet stalk (rachilla), overlapping and mostly appressed. The rachilla is yellowish to reddish, somewhat corky, winged and segmented between the scales.

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

[photo of mature plant] Leaves are few, basal and alternate but near the base, V or M-shaped in cross-section, 4 to 12mm wide, 2 to 12 inches long, sometimes longer. Basal sheaths are brown to whitish. Stems are single or multiple from the base, erect to prostrate, relatively stout, 3-sided, and smooth. Plants form loose to dense clumps.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of spikelet, scales and maturing achenes] The spikelets break apart between florets when mature, the floral scales and achenes (seeds) dropping off along with the attached segment of rachilla, which is somewhat shorter than the achene, the rachilla wings wrapping around the achene opposite to it. Achenes are 1.2 to 1.5mm long, .5 to .7mm wide, brown to reddish to blackish when mature, 3-sided, narrowly oblong-elliptic in outline, somewhat tapered at the base with a short stalk-like appendage (stipe), more rounded at the tip end.


Cyperus odoratus and Cyperus engelmannii (also known as C. odoratus var. engelmannii) are the only two species of Cyperus in Minnesota where the spikelets break apart between florets. Both are rather variable in appearance, from tall and robust to short and somewhat sprawling, this variability possibly due to environmental conditions. The achenes of C. englemannii are longer and more slender than those of C. odoratus, but the most distinctive difference between the two species is the arrangement of scales on the spikelet: scales of C. engelmannii do not overlap where those of C. odoratus do (see comparison photo below). The bottle-brush like clusters are similar to other Cyperus species, notably Cyperus erythrorhizosCyperus esculentus and Cyperus strigosus, all of which have spikelets that break off in their entirety at the base rather than between florets. C. erythrorhizos also has longer clusters with shorter spikelets that are typically more densely packed in the cluster, giving a more distinct cylindric shape, and has distinctive reddish roots. Cyperus esculentus is leafier than C. odoratus and produces tubers on its roots. C. strigosus has much larger scales, 3 to 4+mm long.

Note that the separation of C. odoratus and C. engelmannii is not universally accepted and not currently recognized in Minnesota. The distribution maps reflect that. We have chosen to follow Michigan Flora on this one.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Renville and Wilkin counties. Cyperus odoratus plant and habitat by Keir Morse used under CC BY-NC 3.0. Other photos courtesy Terry Serres.


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

Posted by: Daniel Menken - Woodbury
on: 2023-07-11 16:43:34

A stand of these appeared in a narrow strip of annual flowers planted along my front sidewalk, mixed between zinnias and sun-patients. These carex are short (4 to 8 inches tall), bright green, and pretty, with their delicate flower clusters. They receive 8+ hours of sunlight and generous daily watering.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-07-11 18:38:57

Daniel, I am willing to bet money what volunteered in your garden is the non-native yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) rather than a native. Stop encouraging it and work on eradicating it.

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