Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Heavy Sedge - Carex gravida   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
DistributionScattered specimens from the Piedmont and low Mountains.

Native from Ont. to Sask., south to TN, MS, TX, NM. Adventive in DE, MD, NC, SC.
AbundanceUncommon, perhaps rare, but likely overlooked.
HabitatGrassy open roadsides and roadside banks.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting late April-June.
IdentificationHeavy Sedge has somehow gotten introduced to scattered locations in NC. It is a member of the section Phaestoglochin (formerly named Bracteosae), and must be identified with care. See FNA or Weakley (2018) for a key.
Taxonomic CommentsThe 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)
State RankSE
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieGlendon-Carthage Road, just S of Cool Springs Road, late Apr 2017. Piedmont. MoorePhoto_non_natural
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