Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Muehlenberg's Sedge - Carex muehlenbergii var. enervis   W. Boott
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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AuthorW. Boott
DistributionMostly in lower Piedmont and inner Coastal Plain; scattered in low Mountains. May be more widespread than records indicate. Website editors have included only specimens annotated by experts.

NH to MN and NE, south to GA, MS, and TX.

AbundanceUncommon generally, but rare in Mountains.
HabitatDry, usually acidic, open woodlands, edges, and clearings. Most often associated with oak-hickory-dogwood.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting April-May.
IdentificationAs the name suggests, the perigynia lack veins beneath, whereas var. muehlenbergii normally has 5-9 veins. Perigynia of var. enervis are smaller (2.7-3.1 mm vs. 3-4.2). Both taxa have 3-10 yellow-green or yellow-brown spikes that form a dense to semi-open inflorescence.
Taxonomic CommentsThe text in FNA (2002) makes plain the fact that the 2 varieties of Muehlenberg's Sedge are not very distinct.

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.
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Global RankG5T5
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