Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Carolina Sedge - Carex caroliniana   Schweinitz
Members of Cyperaceae:
Members of Carex with account distribution info or public map:
Google Images
Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
Show/Hide Synonym
AuthorSchweinitz
DistributionPiedmont and inner Coastal Plain, extending along the Cape Fear River in Cumberland and Bladen counties. Scarce in the Mountains, and absent from the middle and outer Coastal Plain.

NJ to KS south to GA and eastern TX; disjunct to northwestern FL.
AbundanceFrequent in the central and eastern Piedmont; uncommon in the upper Coastal Plain, and rare in the western Piedmont and Mountains. Usually in small populations scattered through suitable habitat.
HabitatBottomlands, floodplain forests, and depressional wetlands; also can be found in drier upland forests and on trailsides.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting April-June.
IdentificationMost often confused with C. complanata and C. hirsutella; distinguished from the latter by glabrous leaves and flowering stems (vs. densely pubescent) and from both by mature perigynia which are generally circular in cross-section and spread outwards (vs. rather trigonous and ascending).
Taxonomic CommentsNone

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 RankS3S4 [S4]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Select a source
AllHerbaria
Website
Select an occurrence type
AllCollection_natural