Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for White Beaksedge - Rhynchospora alba   (L.) Vahl
Members of Rhynchospora with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
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Author(L.) Vahl
DistributionCoastal Plain, Sandhills, and low-mid elevations in the Mountains.

Circumboreal; in North America, Lab. to AK south to SC, IL, ID, and CA: disjunct to Okefenokee Swamp in GA, southern AL, and top of El Yunque mountain in Puerto Rico.
AbundanceRare to uncommon in the Coastal Plain, Sandhills, and mountains. Essentially absent across all of the Piedmont and most of the northwestern half of the Coastal Plain. Individual populations may be large, however. This is a Significantly Rare species. The website editors suggest a State Rank of S2S3.
HabitatMontane bogs and fens, sphagnous margins of impoundments, peat islands in Carolina bay lakes, openings in Pond Pine pocosins.
See also Habitat Account for General Herbaceous Peatlands
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting July-October.
IdentificationThe white or whitish heads and 10-12 seed bristles are diagnostic in combination. R. macra looks closely similar but it has 16-20 bristles per seed; R. pallida has whitish to tan heads and a distinctive, enlarged, generally bulbous base to the plant.
Taxonomic CommentsMembers of the genus Rhynchospora -- mainly called beaksedges but also called beakrushes -- are mostly Coastal Plain in distribution and are important members of our longleaf pine savannas, flatwoods, streamheads, depression ponds, Carolina bays, and beaver ponds. They vary from small and wiry to large and coarse. Keys concentrate on features of the achenes (seeds) and the shape and arrangement of the flower clusters (spikelets). The seeds may or not have bristles at their base; bristle number, length, and toothing are critical characters. Size and shape of the seed beaks is also critical. The drawings in Godfrey & Wooten (1979) are extremely helpful. The genus now includes Dichromena, the white-topped sedges.
Other Common Name(s)Northern White Beaksedge. As this website names R. macra as Large Beaksedge -- following the lead of other references -- and not Southern White Beaksedge as used in Weakley (2018), this website prefers to use the main name by other references for C. alba as simply White Beaksedge.
State RankS2 [S2S3]
Global RankG5
State StatusSR-P
US Status
USACE-agcpOBL link
USACE-empOBL link
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