Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Widow Sedge - Carex basiantha   Steudel
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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DistributionKnown only from Jones and Pender counties in the outer Coastal Plain.

Southern NC, central TN, and central AR south to northern FL and eastern TX.
AbundanceRare and local, in very restricted habitats. Several large populations in the vicinity of Rocky Point in Pender County. This is a State Endangered species.
HabitatMesic forests and bottomlands over calcareous rocks or in calcareous-influenced soils. The NC sites are in rich low forests over marl deposits.
See also Habitat Account for Nutmeg Hickory Forests
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting April-June.
IdentificationThis species has recently been split off from C. willdenowii. It can be separated by the longer male portion of the terminal spike (usually 12-25 mm versus 3.5-9 mm in C. willdenowii), and longer achenes (usually 2.6-3 mm vs. 2.1-2.5 mm in C. willdenowii). See also C. superata.
Taxonomic CommentsPlants now recognized as C. basiantha were formerly included within C. willdenowii.

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)Southern Willdenow's Sedge. Many references name it simply as Willdenow's Sedge, but that is the usual common name for C. willdenowii.
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusE
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
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