Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for James's Sedge - Carex jamesii   Schweinitz
Members of Carex with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
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AuthorSchweinitz
DistributionLower Piedmont and adjacent Coastal Plain where brownwater rivers deposit nutrients -- mainly along the Roanoke and Cape Fear rivers.

NY to MN and NE south to SC, GA, and LA.
AbundanceUncommon, but plants may be patch-dominant locally. The NCNHP has 19 records, most extant and many in good to excellent condition. This is a Significantly Rare species.
HabitatNutrient-rich floodplain terraces of brownwater rivers, mostly on lower slopes adjacent to the floodplain. The soils must be circumneutral to basic.
See also Habitat Account for Rich Wet-Mesic Hardwood Forests
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting April-June.
IdentificationJames's Sedge is readily identified by the unusual aspect of the spikes -- few flowered, the plump perigynia with long and prominent beaks; culms shorter than leaves. Carex basiantha, C. superata, and C. wildenowii are very similar, but perigynia are lanceolate or narrowly elliptical, and beaks are shorter.
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)Grass Sedge
State RankS2
Global RankG5
State StatusSR-P
US Status
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Scott PohlmanAverasboro State Historic Site, Cumberland Co., 19 March 2020 CumberlandPhoto_natural
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