Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Pointed Broom Sedge - Carex scoparia   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
DistributionMountains and Piedmont; a few Costal Plain records. Absent from the Sandhills.

Newf. to B.C., south to GA, MS, and CA.
AbundanceFairly common in the Mountains and Piedmont; rare in the Coastal Plain, limited to the northern half of the province.
HabitatA wide variety of wetlands, including freshwater marshes, seepage bogs, seasonally wet ditches; most often in open sunny places.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-June.
IdentificationThis species is a member of the section Ovales, so care must be taken to identify. Unlike many Ovales, C. scoparia has spikes bunched together, often head-like. The spikes are smooth in outline (with appressed perigynia), not bristly with projecting perigynia beaks. Another useful character is the perigynia shape, which tapers gradually from the body to the tip such that the sides of the beak are straight and not curved as in most Ovales. It is told from C. tribuloides of forested floodplains and bottomlands by producing few and inconspicuous sterile, vegetative shoots (vs. many leafy shoots as tall as flowering stems in C. tribuloides).
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)Broom Sedge -- a poor name, as the well-known and abundant Andropogon virginicus - a grass -- goes by the misleading name of Broomsedge.
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
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