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a genus of plants of the family Cyperaceae. The plants are perennial or, less frequently, annual herbs with leaves reduced to tubular sheaths. The small flowers are bisexual and form a terminal spikelet. The perianth is usually composed of four to six bristles; sometimes it is absent. The fruit is nutlike, and the base of the style is usually enlarged.
There are about 200 species, distributed throughout the world but primarily in the New World. The USSR has more than 30 species, growing almost everywhere in shallow water, on sandbars, along bodies of water, and in swamps. The common spike rush (E. palustris) and many other species are used as fodder for livestock. E. tuberosa, which grows in southern Asia, is a food plant. It is raised in the rice-growing regions of southern China and eastern India for the tuberous growths on its rhizomes, which are eaten both raw and cooked.