At the moment, Common Cotton Grass is sprouting all over the Cumbria landscape. It’s as if someone has thrown a huge bag of cotton wool over the fields and mountains. While blowing in the breeze, the movement of these fluffy tufts appear to bring the land to life. Technically, it’s not a grass at all.
- Cottongrass was once used as a feather substitute in pillow stuffing some parts of the United Kingdom.
- Paper and the wicks of candles have been made of its fiber.
- The leaves were formerly used in the treatment of diarrhea, and the spongy pith of the stem for the removal of tapeworm.
- During World War I, it was used to dress wounds.
Cotton Grass is a hardy, herbaceous, rhizomatous, perennial plant, meaning that it is resilient to cold and freezing climatic conditions, dies back at the end of its growing season, has creeping root stalks, and lives for over two years. It grows vigorously from seed over a period of 2–5 years, and thrives particularly well in freshly disturbed, cut or eroded peat.
The plant was named Eriophorum angustifolium in 1782 by the German botanist Gerhard August Honckeny. In English, E. angustifolium is known by a variety of common names (with various spellings), including common cottongrass,common cotton-grass, common cottonsedge, tassel cotton grass, many-headed cotton-grass, thin-scale cotton-grass, tall cotton-grass, downy ling and bog cotton.