Yellow nutsedge

Encyclopedia Article

Yellow nutsedge                   Cyperus esculentus L.

Family: Cyperaceae (Sedge family)
Life cycle: Perennial, reproducing by seed, rhizomes and tubers
Native status: debated

Habitat: Crop fields, landscapes; prefers poorly drained soils.

General description: Erect plant with triangular stem, grass-like leaves that reach heights of 2 to 3 ft. Leaves are glossy and yellow green. Reproduction by rhizomes and tubers results in yellow nutsedge typically occurring in patches rather than individual plants.

Key ID traits: Triangular stem w/leaves coming off at 120° angles. Glossy, grass-like leaves.

Similar species: Numerous native sedge species are found in Iowa’s wetlands and prairies, but yellow nutsedge is the only sedge adapted to disturbed habitats. Other sedges are rarely found in managed landscapes - turf, crop fields, etc.

Miscellaneous: Yellow nutsedge (chufa) was one of the earliest cultivated plants, with the tubers used as a food-source. Tiger Nuts, yellow nutsedge tubers, are available in many health food stores. Purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus) is found in tropical areas and has been ranked as the world’s worst weed.

Yellow nutsedge is typically found in patches due to spread by rhizomes.  The glossy leaves that taper to the tip distinguish it from grasses.

The simplest way to ID yellow nutsedge is to roll the base of plant between fingers to feel the triangular shape. Photo by Brandon Kleinke.

Yellow nutsedge inflorescence.