This is a perennial plant native to bogs and even bog pools throughout Scotland. It likes an acid soil, the more acidic the better and is quite happy to get its feet wet in a shallow pool. It can cover vast areas of heathland turning them white with its cotton-like seed heads. It is a member of the Sedge family, all of which resemble grasses in some way.
Common Cottongrass has grass-like leaves which curve inwards along their length in a tubular fashion. They are rigged with feint lines, and turn red at the tips.
The flower stems end in a cluster of drooping flower heads, from 3 to 7 heads. These heads contain a dense cluster of tiny brownish-green flowers, rather non-descript. But no one is interested in the flowers. It is the seed heads that give Common Cottongrass its striking appearance, turning heaths and moorland strikingly white in late summer. As the flowers are fertilized each produces an achene with a furry white pappus. Bunched together they make a white ball of cotton-like hair about 4cm long, with one long narrow purple bract reaching above the seed head.
Though the brittleness of its threads renders it useless in the manufacture of cotton, during the First World War, Common Cottongrass was used by the Scottish to dress wounds.