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.
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.
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 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.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
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