True fox-sedge (Carex vulpina)

True fox-sedge inflorescence
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True fox-sedge fact file

True fox-sedge description


True fox-sedge bears a strong resemblance to a close relative, false fox-sedge, and even experts need care in telling them apart. Recent taxonomic work on the true fox- sedge suggests that there may even be a third species to add to the equation. True fox sedge has stout stems, which are sharply triangular in cross-section. The leaves are bright green in colour, and taper into sharp, flattened points. The inflorescence (group of flowers) is reddish-brown.

Height: up to 100 cm

True fox-sedge biology

Because it is rare, not much is known of this sedge's biology. The plant is a perennial, and appears to prefer soils which are seasonally flooded, in open or shady conditions. However, evidence suggests it thrives better in open wet meadows.


True fox-sedge range

True fox-sedge is found throughout much of Europe and Asia, but in the UK it is restricted to a few locations in central and southern England.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

True fox-sedge habitat

This species is associated with flood plains, lowland wet ditches and around ponds and rivers, usually on alkaline clay soils.


True fox-sedge status

Classified as Vulnerable in the UK.


True fox-sedge threats

Over the last century, changes in land use meant that most of this sedge's preferred habitats, especially river flood plains, have disappeared. Those few sites which remain have also become scrubbed over.


True fox-sedge conservation

True fox-sedge is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans (UKBAPs) and has been included in English Nature's Species Recovery Plans (SRP). Work on preserving this species as a UK resident has involved surveying known existing sites, and establishing suitable management programmes. Seed has been collected and has proved relatively easy to cultivate ex-situ.

If the right water conditions can be provided, and careful management such as grazing (which the plant appears to tolerate) is introduced to restrict the growth of scrub, there should be no reason why true fox-sedge cannot be re-introduced back to the wild. Seed stored at the Millennium Seed Bank by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, can be propagated and replanted on suitable sites. It is also proposed to encourage botanists to learn how to tell this ‘true’ species from its ‘false’ cousin.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Having a pH greater than 7.0. Soil is regarded as alkaline if it has a pH between 8.0 and 10.0. Alkaline soils are usually rich in calcium ions.
Measures to conserve a species or habitat that occur outside of the natural range of the species. E.g. in zoos or botanical gardens.
The reproductive shoot of the plant, which bears flowers.
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.



Image credit

True fox-sedge inflorescence  
True fox-sedge inflorescence

© Ron D. Porley

Ron D. Porley
Foxhold House
Crookham Common
RG15 8EL
United Kingdom


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