Large families are always an interesting collection of individuals with curious, and occasionally unique characteristics, but still have a common connection running through all the relations. Getting members together reveals both the similarities and the differences.
Holiday get-togethers frequently highlight the vast variations. There is always the uncle with the tacky jokes, the quiet cousin with the thick glasses and the provocateur who will question everyone about topics which are best left unaddressed.
Even so, there is always a thread connecting the diverse collection of characters. Overused first names, (natural) hair color, or physical height can be some of the factors which visually link the family despite their differences.
Residents of Franklin and Gulf counties, both native and non-native, containing chlorophyll have many examples of this concept. The sedge family is an excellent example of a varied group with a common and visually identifiable trait.
Cyperaceae, as the collective family is known, has 88 genera. Each genus is like an individual family's surname, and explains how the plant world's Smiths and Jones are related.
Most human residents of North Florida have encountered one or more sedges in the home lawn, but they numerically are more common in the untended acreage in the area. For the homeowner who obsesses over their lawn, sedges are generally considered pests to be promptly eliminated.
One of those landscape interlopers common to the area is globe sedge (Cyperus globulosus). This perennial has a distinctive seed head which starkly contrasts with other turf and other grassy plants.
Sometimes confused with sandspurs, which is not a sedge, this sedge's seed head has a spiky appearance. It is not a threat to bare feet as they are not sharp or stiff enough to pierce skin.
The seed produced usually does not travel too far, unless there is a very heavy flooding rain. As such, after a year or two there will be a cluster of these weeds growing in close proximity. Additionally, propagation is accomplished by rhizomes to fill in the gaps close to the parent plant.
During the spring and early summer, it is able to disguise itself and hide among lawn grasses, and it will take close mowing. The color of this sedge is slightly different from traditional turf, and the leaves’ shape does not match, but it is rarely notice among the thousands of grass blades in the typical yard.
Much like preferred grasses for panhandle Florida’s yards, this species grows best in full sun exposure. To the consternation of turf snobs, this species will be green and flourishing when centipede grass and St. Augustine are showing stress because of dry weather.
Globe sedge has a fraternal twin, Cylindric sedge (Cyperus retrosus) which grows in the area also. The difference is its seed head is cylindrical.
The most notorious local sedge is an exotic invasive weed, purple nutsedge. Of the approximately 5,500 known sedge species worldwide, this one is locally the most problematic.
It is exceptionally aggressive in its conquest of new territory. From a single nutlet at the center of its root system, it sends multiple roots which produce interconnected plants.
If pulled, the delicate roots detach from the remaining plants which will function individually and begin the process again. This ill-behaved cousin from overseas has two similarities to the locals.
The first is the generally grass-shaped leaves, and the second is the triangular stem. Side-by-side, they look different, but the similarities are recognizable by most observers.
Good, bad or indifferent, family traits are hard to deny.
To learn more about these lawn nuisances in Franklin and Gulf counties, contact the nearest UF/IFAS County Extension Office or visit https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/find-your-local-office/. To read more stories by Les Harrison visit: Outdoorauthor.com and follow me on Facebook.