Cyperaceae are a family of monocotyledonous graminoid flowering plants known as sedges, which superficially resemble grasses or rushes. The family is large, with some 5,500 species described in about 109 genera. These species are widely distributed, with the centers of diversity for the group occurring in tropical Asia and tropical South America. While sedges may be found growing in almost all environments, many are associated with wetlands, or with poor soils. Ecological communities dominated by sedges are known as sedgelands.
Features distinguishing members of the sedge family from grasses or rushes are stems with triangular cross-sections (with occasional exceptions) and leaves that are spirally arranged in three ranks (grasses have alternate leaves forming two ranks).
Some well-known sedges include the water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) and the papyrus sedge (Cyperus papyrus), from which the Ancient Egyptian writing material was made. This family also includes cotton-grass (Eriophorum), spike-rush (Eleocharis), sawgrass (Cladium), nutsedge or nutgrass (Cyperus rotundus, a common lawn weed), the large genus of Carex, and white star sedge (Rhynchospora colorata).
The native flora of the United States includes about 17,000 species of vascular plants, plus tens of thousands of additional species of other plants and plant-like organisms such as algae, lichens and other fungi, and mosses. About 3,800 additional non-native species of vascular plants are recorded as established outside of cultivation in the U.S., as well as a much smaller number of non-native non-vascular plants and plant relatives. The United States possesses one of the most diverse temperate floras in the world, comparable only to that of China.
Several biogeographic factors contribute to the richness and diversity of the U.S. flora. While most of the United States has a temperate climate, Alaska has vast arctic areas, the southernmost part of Florida is subtropical to tropical, Hawaii is fully tropical (including high mountains), and alpine summits are present on many western mountains, as well as a few in the Northeast. The U.S. coastline borders three oceans: The Atlantic (and Gulf of Mexico), the Arctic, and the Pacific. Finally, the U.S. shares long borders with Canada and Mexico, and is relatively close to the Bahamas, Cuba and other Caribbean islands, and easternmost Asia.