Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Starrush Whitetop Sedge - Rhynchospora colorata   (L.) H. Pfeiffer
Members of Cyperaceae:
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.) H. Pfeiffer
DistributionOuter Coastal Plain and Outer Banks/barrier islands.

Southeastern VA to southern FL, TX, Mex., Central America, West Indies, Venezuela.
AbundanceFrequent on the Coastal Plain, but common on the Outer Banks/barrier islands. The website editors consider this as an S4 species, and not just S3.
HabitatMaritime wet grasslands, wet pine savannas and flatwoods, moist roadsides. Soils of most occurrences are under the influence of salt spray minerals or shell fragments (calcium, marl).
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-September.
IdentificationWith their bright white inflorescence bracts, this and R. latifolia are easily recognized from our other Rhynchospora species. Narrowleaf Whitetop Sedge can be told from Giant Whitetop Sedge by usually having only 3-6 bracts (vs 6-10) and the white portion is usually only 9-25 mm long (vs. 22-55 mm long in the other species). Not all individuals will key cleanly. When in "bloom", with the white bracts visible, a stand of either of these species is quite spectacular.
Taxonomic CommentsFormerly named as Dichromena colorata in most references.

Members 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)Starrush Whitetop, Starrush Whitetop Sedge, White Star Sedge. Most references use just "Starrush Whitetop", but the editors prefer the common name used by Weakley (2018), NatureServe, and a few others, as much less confusing and one most familiar to people in our area. And, the use of Whitetop as a noun for the last part of the name is not helpful as a group name.
State RankS3 [S4]
Global RankG5
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US Status
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B.A. SorrieSandy Run Savannas Natural Area, June 2022. OnslowPhoto_natural
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