Characters.—The plants in this order closely resemble grasses (see ante, p. 100), from which they are distinguished by their embryo being inclosed within the base of the albumen; by their leaf-sheaths being whole or entire, not slit; and by their stems being solid, angular, and without joints or diaphragms.
Properties.—These plants are remarkable for their deficiency of those organic principles which render the grasses so valuable and important to man (see ante, p. 107). The so-called roots (rhizomes) of several species of Cyperus (e. g. longus, rotundus, and esculentus) were formerly employed in medicine. They are mild aromatics, stomachics, and diaphoretics. The roasted roots of C. esculentus have been used as a substitute for coffee. The rhizomes of Carex arenaria have been employed as a substitute for sarsaparilla, under the name of bastard or German sarsaparilla (radix sarsaparilla germanica vel radix graminis major).