Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Cherokee Sedge - Carex cherokeensis   Schweinitz
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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DistributionPrimarily southern Mountains at low elevations, but also widely scattered locations in the Piedmont and the outer Coastal Plain. However, Weakley's (2018) map indicates that it is perhaps not native in VA and the NC Mountains.

VA (rare and possibly not native) and NC west to MO and OK, south to northern FL and eastern TX. Weakley (2018) does indicate that populations are native in NC east of the Mountains, though oddly his map does not show a status at all for the NC Piedmont, where the map below shows 3 county records (Durham, Lincoln, and Polk).
AbundanceScarce on the landscape; tends to occur in groups or dense colonies of plants. Rare to locally uncommon in the southwestern Mountains, and very rare elsewhere. Given the NCNHP's 11 records, it would have a State Rank of S1S2 or S2. However, with Weakley's hesitancy in considering montane records as native, it is perhaps best to keep the State Rank at S1 (or perhaps better at S1S2), with a State Threatened status. Further details are needed to clarify the montane provenance, but the website editors will keep records there as natural for now.
HabitatMost often on higher floodplain terraces where flood duration is very short; also marl forests, gladelike openings. Favors mid- to high pH soils. West of NC, frequent in dry to moist chalk prairies and bluffs.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting April-June.
IdentificationCherokee Sedge grows from a thick rhizome and often forms patches with culms (flowering stems) emerging from a mass of leaves. There are 4-12 female spikes, pale yellowish to straw color, on slender arching or drooping stalks. This is an easily learned and recognized sedge.
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 RankS1 [S1S2]
Global RankG4G5
State StatusT
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
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