Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Mitchell's Sedge - Carex mitchelliana   M.A. Curtis
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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AuthorM.A. Curtis
DistributionMostly Sandhills and outer Coastal Plain; widely scattered elsewhere.

MA to PA and KY, south to northern FL, northern AL, and central TN. Mostly on the Coastal PLain.
AbundanceUncommon in the Sandhills and the outer Coastal Plain; rare in the Piedmont --mainly in the western portions -- and the southern Mountains. A large area of northeastern NC lacks records. Though the NCNHP considers it as a Watch List species, there are enough county records -- 27 counting all reports -- that no such listing seems needed now.
HabitatIn the Sandhills it inhabits the upper ends of beaver pond marshes and in small stream swamps; in sun or under light canopy of Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and Swamp Tupelo (Nyssa biflora). Habitats elsewhere in NC are less well known, but presumed to be swamps, wooded seeps, and other semi-shaded wetlands, in acidic soil. This is one of the few known host plants of the Mitchell's Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii) butterfly, in NC restricted to just Hoke and Cumberland counties. Note that amazing coincidence -- the plant and the butterfly are named after different biologists named Mitchell!
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-July.
IdentificationClosely similar to C. crinita and C gynandra, but differs in its scabrous sheaths (also shared with C. gynandra; smooth in C. crinita) and smooth sides of the achene (crimp or groove in the side in C. crinita).
Taxonomic CommentsThe type specimen was collected in Chatham County in 1835 by Moses Ashley Curtis.

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 RankS2 [S3]
Global RankG4
State StatusW1
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empOBL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Photo Gallery
E. UngbergMontgomery County, Uwharrie NF, streamhead habitat, 29 April 2022. MontgomeryPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieMoore County, 2015, Ray's Mill Creek just S of Aberdeen Lake. MoorePhoto_natural

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