Yellow Nutsedge

Yellow Nutsedge

Yellow Nutsedge

Cyperus esculentus L. has common names of yellow nutsedge, yellow nutgrass, ground almond, chufa, and tiger nut. "Esculentus" comes from the Latin word meaning edible.

Description: Yellow nutsedge is a grass-like perennial. Shiny light green leaves are 1/8- to 1/2- inch wide. The stems are triangular-shaped, and you can feel the difference when you roll a sedge stem between your fingers. People remember the difference between sedges and grass with the saying "sedges have edges." Leaves are produced in groups of 3 from the base of the plant, while grass leaves are in pairs. Yellow nutsedge flowers are spikelets that occur at the top of individual stems in a cluster where the flower stalks arise from a common point (umbel-like). Individual spikelets are yellow to brown in color. Most people recognize the light green grass-like plant that grows twice as fast as their turfgrass.

Where: It grows from warm climates to the subarctic. Nutsedge does well in wet places such as meadows and streams ditches. Once established, it can tolerate drought for up to many months. The plant has adapted to many agricultural sites as well as turfgrass. Because of its ability to adapt, it has been ranked as the 16th worst weed in the world.

Propagation: Most of the seeds of yellow nustsedge are sterile. Reproduction is mostly by tubers (nutlets) that develop at the end of the rhizomes (root-like stem tissue) in the soil. When the mother plant is pulled, the loosely attached tubers remain in the soil, ready to sprout when separated from the rhizome. This is why pulling the weed is often discouraged. Once pulled, multiple plants will grow in its place - all of which are developing more tubers. Plants pulled before they have 4 to 5 leaves have not had time to develop tubers. Generally, after June 21, plants have matured and likely have developed tubers that will sprout. This is why chemical treatments before this date are more effective.

What: There are some positive sides to nustsedge. Sativa is a variety of Cyperus esculentus that is most often used to plant for wildlife, and for food crops. Turkeys and waterfowl will eat the nutlets. The nutlet of the yellow nustsedge is supposed to be somewhat sweet and tastes a cross between an almond and coconut.

Horchata is a sweet drink made in Spain from the nustsedge nutlets they call chufa. It is a white, creamy drink served cold. The nustsedge tubers can be ground and used to replace half the flour in a bread recipe. It was cultivated in ancient Egypt for its tubers. Supposedly the Native American Pima tribe chewed nutsedge roots as a cold remedy. The Piute tribe ground up the tubers and mixed with other foods.

yellow nutsedge
Mary Anna Anderson
Mary Anna Anderson
Nebraska Extension Horticulturist

Mary Anna Anderson served from 1997-2013 as a horticulturist with Nebraska Extension in the Douglas/Sarpy County offices.