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A Halloween Mystery – A Globe-trotting Weed and the Queen of the Gypsies

A weed growing next to a tombstone
Blue sedge, Carex breviculmis, near a tombstone at a cemetery in Meridian, Mississippi.

Quick, when you think of Halloween what usually comes to mind? Ghosts, black cats, mysterious graveyards? Too creepy? Well, it turns out that graveyards (also known as cemeteries) can be a pretty cool place… if you’re a scientist. In fact, one cemetery in Mississippi helped scientists figure out the globe-trotting journey of a restless plant.

You see graveyards can be a good place to scout for plant species, which is what Mississippi State University graduate student Lucas Majure was doing when he found an unknown sedge (a type of weed). He asked ARS botanist Charles Bryson, who keeps an eye out for new and potentially invasive plants, to help identify the mystery plant.

After several months of searching, Dr. Bryson was able to confirm that the plant was blue sedge, Carex breviculmis, a native of Asia and Australia and previously unknown in North America. So how did this strange weed end up in Mississippi?

Read "A Mississippi Graveyard - The Perfect Place for a Plant Mystery" to learn more.