Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Prickly Bog Sedge - Carex atlantica   L.H. Bailey
Members of Cyperaceae:
Members of Carex with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
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AuthorL.H. Bailey
DistributionThroughout the state, but rare on the Outer Banks. Current gaps will likely be filled in with additional collecting.

Nova Scotia to MI, IL, and MO south to northern FL and eastern TX.
AbundanceFrequent to common, though scarce near the northeastern coast. Often common where found, the cespitose plants and multiple stems being conspicuous. The NCNHP's State Rank of S3 is woefully conservative; considering that there are collections from at least 66 counties, it is clearly an S5 species.
HabitatSeepage bogs, maple-gum swamps, cypress-gum swamps, streamhead pocosins --typically in acidic soils.
See also Habitat Account for General Acidic Wetlands
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-June.
IdentificationClosest to C. howei, and by some authors C. howei is treated as C. atlantica ssp. capillaris. Carex atlantica is separated by its coarser stems and broader leaves (1.6-4.5 mm wide vs. 0.8-1.6 mm) and longer perigynia (2.3-3.8 mm vs. 1.9-3 mm).
Taxonomic CommentsIncludes Carex incomperta. Note that C. atlantica ssp. capillacea has been elevated to full species status as C. howei.

The genus Carex is the largest in North America, and among the largest in the world. In temperate and boreal regions, Carex is often the dominant or co-dominant ground layer in many habitats. Seeds (achenes) are valuable food for birds and small mammals, while foliage is used by birds and mammals to make nests and as food by mammals. Species of Carex often look vastly different from one another -- spikes erect vs. drooping, tiny inflorescence vs. whopping, culms leafy vs. naked, perigynia beaked vs. beakless, stems densely bunched vs. single, etc. The genus has been divided into many sections (or groups), based on shared characters; some taxonomists have suggested that these be different genera, but that proves unworkable (so far). All Carex share the feature of a perigynium (an outer covering) which completely surrounds the achene (seed). This covering may fit tightly or loosely (like a small bladder), depending on which group or species. Details of perigynia shape, ornamentation, presence and size of beak, number of striations (or veins) are all important ID features. In recent years Rob Naczi and colleagues have stressed the importance of arrangement of perigynia -- whether spiral (3+ ranks) or distichous (2-ranked) -- and have named a number of new species as well as split off some older synonyms. Therefore, RAB's (1968) key, excellent for its time, can only be used in a general way today. Members of some sections of Carex are difficult to key out (notably Ovales, Laxiflorae, Griseae); this is in part due to variation among individuals of a species, or failings of the key. FNA has drawings of most species and some species may be found in two or more places within a key, to acount for variability. New species to NC, and new to science(!), continue to be found in NC.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS3 [S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieInterdune wet linear swamp, margin. Kitty Hawk Woods, 3 May 2013. DareBIUPhoto_natural
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