Courtesy of M. Michener
Photo Courtesy of M. Michener

Grasses and Sedges

Family: Poaceae, the Grass Family, and Cyperaceae, the Sedge Family

Description: No generic description: There are approximately 10,000 Poaceae species worldwide and over 5,000 Cyperaceae species worldwide!

Abundance: Common

Habitat: Everywhere

Plant Parts Used: All

Food: Flour, nibble, tea, etc.

Other: Baskets, hiding places

Grasses and sedges are common in most corners of the world. Some of our favorite grasses include wheat, rye, barley, millet, oats, rice, and corn. We all know grasses. Of the local edible species, there are too many to count and they are often difficult to identify to species. Patti grew up chewing on blades of grasses whenever she was outside. She told me she does not know the difference from one to the other, but she feels confident with grazing through the fields chewing on various grasses, saying some are sweet and some are bitter. John told me that dried grasses can be added to soups and that tall grasses, sedges, and rushes serve as superior hiding places when hunting.

Caution: Some harmful fungi, i.e. ergot, grow on grasses and can negatively affect human health if consumed. Some grasses have sharp or wiry bristles (called “awns”) that can irritate the nose or throat. According to Turner and Von Aderkas, some grasses have low amounts of a cyanogenic compound, but they are found in such low concentrations that they should not be harmful.

Note: This post is part of my Plants and People series. See my Plants and People page for more information about the project and the people referenced in this post.


  • Brooks, John. Personal Interview. 28 Nov. 2010.
  • Chilton, Patti. Telephone interview. 31 Oct. 2010.
  • Michener, Martin C. Botany Everywhere: Woods, Field, Home, and Garden Plants of NE USA, Third Edition. Hollis, NH: MIST Software Associates, Inc., 2009. PDF.
  • Mittelhauser, Glen H., Linda L. Gregory, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber. The Plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, Me.: University of Maine, 2010. Print.
  • Turner, Nancy J., and Patrick Von Aderkas. The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms. Portland: Timber, 2009. Print.