Word of the Week: Culm

culm [ kuhlm ] nounthe stem of grasses, sedges, rushes, and cattails


Culms is the term used to describe the stems of the monocotyledonous plants called graminoids, as in Poaceae (grasses), Cyperaceae (sedges), Juncaceae (rushes), and Typhaceae (cattails).


The culms of grasses have nodes (joints), which are somewhat swollen, and internodes. The leaves emerge from the nodes, with the sheath on one side of the culm and the blade on the other, wrapping it so tightly the culm is unseen at that point. The culms are usually hollow between the nodes, are unbranched, and usually end in an inflorescence.


Sedges and Rushes

Sedge culms are triangular and solid, with the leaves in three rows. Those of rushes are round and solid or pithy.



Cattail culms are also round, leaves emerging from the culm or plant base, and with male and female flowers on the same culm. The larger female inflorescences are below the smaller male flowers near the end of the stem. These velvety heads turn into wind-borne fluff as the seeds ripen. Cattails grow in wet places almost all over the world. While they can be invasive, they also have ethnobotanical uses by indigenous people and are used in silage, paper-making, and for other purposes.



Bedish JW. 1964. Studies of the germination and growth of cattail in relation to marsh management. Iowa State University, Digital Repository : https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=17856&context=rtd.

Grass Structures. Forage Information System, Oregon State University Department of Crop and Soil Science. (https://forages.oregonstate.edu/regrowth/how-does-grass-grow/grass-structures, accessed October 23, 2021).

Grasses, Sedges, Rushes. Ecological Atlas of Denali’s Flora. Denali National Park and Reserve.(https://ecologicalatlas.uaf.edu/index.php/browse-plant-species/atlas-group/?nps_gf=4&nps_num=1&overview=1, accessed October 23, 2021).

Illinois Wildflowers, © 2002-2020 by John Hilty. (http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/index.htm accessed October 23, 2021).

Lab 8. Monocots, Commelinids: Poales (Poaceae, Cyperaceae, Juncaceae, Typhaceae); Arecales (Arecaceae). Department of Plant Sciences. University of California, Davis.



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SHRUB: Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

This compact shrub is indigenous to woodland edges, prairies, and roadsides throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic. Although somewhat slow to establish, its extensive root system, drought tolerance, and ability to fix nitrogen make it an excellent choice for challenging garden sites.  Learn more . . .

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It’s time to winterize your garden – Here’s how

By Kirsten Ann Conrad, Agriculture Natural Resource Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension

As the days grow cooler and shorter and flowers fade, there are still tasks for the home gardener. Whether you grow plants in containers on a patio, in window boxes, or a small, urban garden space, you’ll want to take protective measures for your herbaceous (perennials or annuals) or woody (evergreen or deciduous) plants.

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Word of the Week: Peduncle

peduncle [ pi-duhng-kuhl, pee-duhng- ] noun: the main stalk of a solitary flower (or fruit) or of an inflorescence (or infructescence)


What’s stalking flowers and foliage? We call leafstalks petioles. Flower stalks, on the other hand, may be referred to as either peduncles or pedicels. A peduncle is the stalk that joins the base of a solitary flower/fruit or a cluster of flowers/fruits (inflorescence/infructescence) to the main stem above a subtending bract, leaf, or node. Within an inflorescence/infructescence, the stalk of each individual flower/fruit is called a pedicel, which attaches the base of that flower/fruit to the main axis of the inflorescence/infructescence or its branches above the peduncle. For example, a peduncle holds a cluster of grapes, but each individual grape is held on a pedicel. Flowers/fruits without stalks are referred to as sessile.

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