Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Smooth-sheath Sedge - Carex laevivaginata   (Kuekenthal) Mackenzie
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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Author(Kuekenthal) Mackenzie
DistributionMore-or-less throughout the state. Gaps in the present map will likely be filled over time. Likely very scarce to absent along the northeastern coast.

MA to southern Ont. and MN, south to FL and MO.
AbundanceFairly common in many areas, such as the northern and central Piedmont and Mountains; ranging to uncommon in other regions. The species has been collected from at least 62 counties and thus deserves to be given a State Rank of S5 instead of S4.
HabitatFreshwater marshes, swamp forests, margins of beaver ponds -- typically in fairly rich soil.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-June.
IdentificationThe cylindrical inflorescence and the yellowish or yellowish green color of them are similar to several other sedges, such as C. stipata, C. annectens, and C. vulpinoidea. From all it is readily told by the thickened, cartilaginous summit of the leaf sheath, which can be felt by one's finger as a distinct bump.
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, but the preferred common name of Smooth-sheath Sedge or Smooth-sheathed Sedge is a major tongue-twister!
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
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