Sawgrass, A Cut Below The Rest

by Green Deane

in Edible Raw, Flour/Starch, Plants, Vegetable


Cladium jamaicense: Water finder

Very sharp sawgrass grows only where it is damp

In Wekiva Springs state park in Florida there is a high and dry stretch of scrub pine and palmetto bushes, and oddly, a bunch of water-loving sawgrass. The area is dotted with little and gigantic springs and the sawgrass pictured left, in that dry environment, is the only indication of the spring underneath. Normally it is found in standing water.

Sawgrass gets a lot of bad press. Even though it covers most of the Everglades and its relatives can be found in most of North America except the northern plains, few have anything good to say about it. Apparently even most animals avoid it. But, It is edible. However, I didn’t say it was easy to get at.

Sawgrass is correctly and incorrectly named. First it is not a grass but a sedge. Sedges have edges, grass have stems. But the saw part is right. In fact, in Haiti it is call the “razor herb.”

The sedge is armed with very fine saw teeth and will cut you quite easily (though a useable blade in nature if you need one.)  The heart of leaves at the bottom are edible. They taste similar to heart of palm but not as sweet. Some say the young shoots are edible but I don’t see how.  Elsewhere in the world some sawgrasses have edible roots. Sawgrass roots are too tough.

Its botanical name is Cladium jamaicense (KLA-dee-um ja-may-KEN-see.) Cladium is from the Greek word kladion, or branchlett, referring to the flower spike. It was named by botanist Patrick Browne in 1766. The other native species are C. mariscoides (latin: mar-is-COY-dees Greek mar-is-KEE- deez)  and C. californicum (ka-li-FOR-ni-cum.) Edibility unknown to me. A species in the old world is Cladium mariscus (mar-RISK-us.)

Oddly enough, the top of sawgrass often has little worms in it that are excellent bait for fresh water fish.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: A tall, coarse,perennial to nine feet, usually three; leaves long and thin, flat V-shaped blades with sharp teeth on the edges and underside mid-vein. Flowers rusty brown spikes up to 3 feet long above the leaves. Leaves tend to cut one way, when pulling away from the plant.

TIME OF YEAR: Grows year round in Florida, summer and fall elsewhere.

ENVIRONMENT: Edges of wetlands or freshwater lakes. Grow in a scrub area usually means a spring nearby.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Inner bottom white core of stalk, raw or cooked. WARNING: It cuts flesh very easily.


If you would like to donate to Eat The Weeds please click here.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria Titherington February 18, 2016 at 11:10

I wonder if torpedo grass roots are edible?


Green Deane February 29, 2016 at 18:25

Root are not mentioned but there are some reports the seeds are edible. It is not native to North America.


Willy September 2, 2013 at 21:20

Hey Green Dean,
Its Willy form Florida Earthskills.
Are the sawgrass seeds edible? There seems to be quite a lot of them tight now.
By the way the 2014 dates for FL Earthsills are Feb. 6-9th. Hopefully you can make it! We’ll be in touch about it.


Green Deane September 7, 2013 at 15:47

The seeds are usually used to treat high blood pressure, so while they may be edible I think the cautious answer would be no.


Robert M. November 13, 2011 at 21:24

I have not seen any sawgrass around here but I think we might have a close cousin. Torpedo grass and it is all over the place. A shorter version but cuts just the same. I don’t think there is enough of the bottom of the leaves to eat.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: