Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Fraser's Sedge - Carex fraseriana   Ker-Gawler
Members of Cyperaceae:
Members of Carex with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Family Cyperaceae
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AuthorKer-Gawler
DistributionStrictly in the Mountains province.

Southern Appalachians, from western MD, PA, WV, and eastern KY south to northwestern SC, northern GA, and eastern TN.
AbundanceRather uncommon and local, but plants are often common and conspicuous where found. This is a Watch List species.
HabitatCove forests at moderate elevations, often with Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum). Mostly found in Acidic Cove Forest natural community.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-July.
IdentificationFraser's Sedge is virtually unmistakable, with its very broad, generally evergreen leaves that eventually lie flat; also by the bright white inflorescences on long and naked stems, held well above the leaves. Even when not in bloom, the dark green and shiny evergreen leaves should catch your attention, even if you are unsure what species it is. It is no surprise that most older references, and many current ones, placed it is its own genus, away from Carex.
Taxonomic CommentsOften placed in its own genus as Cymophyllus fraserianus, but genetic data show its true affinity with Carex.

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)Lily-leaf Sedge, Fraser's Cymophyllus
State RankS3
Global RankG4
State StatusW1
US Status
USACE-agcp
USACE-emp
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