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(cotton grass), a genus of plants of the family Cyperaceae. The plants are perennial herbs with a creeping or shortened rhizome. Those plants having the latter type of rhizome form small tussocks. The stems are three-angled or cylindrical. The basal leaves are long, and the stem leaves are short or reduced in the form of sheaths. The bisexual flowers are borne by many-flowered spikelets, which are solitary or gathered in umbellate clusters. The perianth consists of numerous white or, less commonly, rusty hairs, which greatly elongate and become cottony after flowering. The fruit is three-angled.
There are approximately 20 species of cotton grass, distributed in the cold and temperate belts of the northern hemisphere. One species grows in the southern hemisphere, in the Transvaal. There are 14 species in the USSR, growing mainly in the arctic and forest zones and in the alpine belt of the mountains. The plants usually grow along shores and in swamps, boggy tundra, and forests. Among the most common is the hare’s-tail (E. vaginatum), which often forms broad tussocks in upriver swamps. E. polystachion and the broad-leaved cotton grass (E. latifolium) grow mainly in downriver swamps and peaty lands covered with spring water. All species of cotton grass form peat. Many species, especially hare’s-tail, are valuable early-spring forage for deer and elks. The stalks are eaten by waterfowl.
T. V. EGOROVA