Q:

What animals eat cotton grass?

A:

Quick Answer

Arctic cottongrass is eaten by migrating snow geese, caribou calves and humans. The Inuit preserved its stems in seal oil, used it in stone lamps and ate it raw, saving the downy heads to use as stuffing for pillows. Cottongrass is used in Northern Europe as a treatment for coughs and colds, and it has also been linked to the mass suicide of Norway lemmings.

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Full Answer

Ask Nature touches briefly on the intriguing story of the Norway lemmings, theorizing that cottongrass produces a poison that neutralizes their digestive juices and causes them to starve even as they feed, eventually leading the lemmings to plunge into the sea searching for food after they've stripped the tundra of its vegetation. However, cottongrass is a crucial component in the diet of caribou calves, and migrating snow geese rely on cottongrass to build up fat reserves, feeding for up to 16 hours per day and increasing their body fat by 400 percent. The head of the cottongrass is covered in a fluffy white ball of cotton with a long, slender stem and grass-like leaves. The cotton is usually dispersed by the wind. Arctic cottongrass can be found in the northern hemisphere and Arctic tundra regions.

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