Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Fringed Sedge - Carex crinita   Lamarck
Members of Cyperaceae:
Members of Carex with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
DistributionAcross most of the state, but scarce in the northwestern portions.

N.S. to Man. south to GA and LA.
AbundanceCommon in the Piedmont and most of the Coastal Plain; frequent to common in the southern Mountains. Scarce in the southern Sandhills, the extreme eastern counties, and the northwestern part of the state. One of the more common and conspicuous sedges of floodplain forests in the eastern two-thirds of the state.
HabitatSwamp forests, floodplain forests and bottomlands, riverside marshes, seepage bogs, lake and impoundment margins, beaver ponds. Favors shaded or semi-shaded places.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-August.
IdentificationFringed Sedge and its close relatives have tall (2-3 feet) culms (flowering stems) with 2-5 drooping or arching female spikes that taper to the tip. Separated from C. mitchelliana and C. gynandra by glabrous leaf sheaths (vs. scabrous) and retuse tips of female scales (vs. truncate to acuminate).
Taxonomic CommentsTwo varieties are present in NC -- var. brevicrinis mostly in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, and the nominate var. crinita scattered statewide, but definitely in the mountains.

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)None
State RankS5
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empOBL link
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Photo Gallery
B.A. SorriePiedmont, Mill Creek at Bowers Mill Road, June 2016. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieWhispering Pines, narrow N arm of Shadow Lake, May 2021. MoorePhoto_natural

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