Cotton-grass (Common) Eriophorum angustifolium

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See April, May, June
Habitat Wetland

Fluffy, cotton-like flower and seed heads give this distinctive plant its name. However, as a member of the sedge family, its technically not a grass at all.


Common in bogs throughout the UK.


Wet, acid moorland, peat and bogs.

Best time to see

Flowers from April to June.

Did you know?

After fertilisation in early summer, the small, unremarkable green and brown flowers develop distinctive white seed-heads that resemble tufts of cotton. Combined with its ecological suitability to bog, these characteristics give rise to the plant's alternative name, bog cotton.

In abundance, E. angustifolium can grow with densely enough to disguise bog and wetland. Consequently, it may be used as an indicator of areas which are hazardous to travel through.

The fluffy white fronds of common cottongrass were once used as a feather substitute in pillow stuffing in Suffolk and Sussex. Experiments have been done to see if a usable thread can be derives from the seed-plumes. However, the fibres are too short and brittle. It has, however, been used in the production of candle wicks and paper in Germany. In Scotland they used Cottongrass to dress wounds during First World War.

Cottongrass seeds and stems are edible and are used in traditional Native American cuisine by Alaska natives, Inupiat people and Inuit. The roots and leaves of E. angustifolium are also edible and, owing to their astringent properties, are used by the Yupik peoples for medicinal purposes. Through a process of infusion, decoction and poultice they are used to treat aliments of the gastrointestinal tract and in the Old World for the treatment of diarrhoea.

It is the County flower of Manchester. The white plumes of cotton-grass are a familiar sight in wet hollows on the moors above the city. They are an emblem both of their boggy habitat and of the wide open spaces.