Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Fescue Sedge - Carex festucacea   Schkuhr ex Willdenow
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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AuthorSchkuhr ex Willdenow
DistributionPrimarily in the middle and lower Piedmont; rare in the Outer Coastal Plain and in Polk County. Website editors only accept records of this species that have been annotated by Carex section Ovales experts, such as Hermann, Naczi, Reznicek, and Rothrock. A specimen at CLEMS from Avery County may possibly be brevior instead.

VT to MN south to northwestern FL and TX.
AbundanceFairly common in the central and eastern Piedmont; very rare elsewhere. The editors suggest a State Rank of S4.
HabitatFloodplain forests, bottomlands, wet depressions in forests, wet meadows.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting Late April-June.
IdentificationFescue Sedge is a member of the Ovales section and therefore must be identified with care. Carex festucacea has shorter achenes than C. brevior (1.2-1.8 mm vs. 1.7-2.2 mm) and has more spikes per culm than C. molestiformis (5-7 or more vs. 2-5).
Taxonomic CommentsNone

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 RankS3 [S4]
Global RankG5
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US Status
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USACE-empFAC link
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