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Ryan O'Connor
Natural Heritage Inventory Ecologist

Southern Sedge Meadow

State Rank: S3     Global Rank: G4?   what are these ranks?


Detailed Community Description from Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin

General natural community overview

Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for Southern Sedge Meadow in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database.

Widespread in southern Wisconsin, this open wetland community is most typically dominated by tussock sedge (Carex stricta) and Canada bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis). Common associates of relatively undisturbed sedge meadows are other sedges (e.g., Carex diandra, C. sartwellii), marsh bellflower (Campanula aparinoides), marsh wild-Timothy (Muhlenbergia glomerata), American water horehound (Lycopus americanus), panicled aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum), swamp aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum), iris (Iris spp.), spotted Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum), marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate). Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) may be dominant in grazed and/or ditched stands, sometimes to the exclusion of virtually all other species.

Sedge meadows are most common in glaciated landscapes, where they often border streams or drainage lakes. The southern sedge meadow community occurred with prairie, savanna, and hardwood forest communities, and many of them apparently burned periodically. In the absence of fire, shrubs and trees are able to readily encroach on the open wetlands. Encroachment can be exacerbated when wetlands are drained. Many sedge meadows in southeastern Wisconsin are influenced by alkaline groundwater and occur in complexes with emergent marsh, calcareous fen, wet prairie, wet-mesic prairie, and shrub-carr. Differentiating between these communities can be difficult, as they frequently intergrade.

Defining Characteristics and Similar Communities

Southern sedge meadows are distinguished from calcareous fens by a greater prevalence of species preferring standing water such as water smartweed (Persicaria amphibia), great water dock (Rumex britannica), broad-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), marsh skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata), and wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus) relative to fen specialists. Sedge meadows also tend to have a higher dominance of tussock sedge and have tussocks that are taller than those in fens, reflecting the more variable water levels that promote vertical tussock development. In contrast, water levels in fens are nearly constant due to a continuous supply of groundwater.

Southern sedge meadows are distinguished from wet prairies and wet-mesic prairies by having peat soils rather than mineral soils, a higher prevalence of sedges, and a relative lack of prairie species. However, wet prairies and sedge meadows have many species in common, especially forbs. Southern sedge meadows and emergent marshes sometimes share similar species like lake sedge (Carex lacustris), especially in wet sloughs along large rivers. However, sedge meadows have a higher relative cover of sedges and native graminoids such as Canada bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) while emergent marshes have a higher relative cover of other emergent species (e.g., cattails, bulrush, bur-reeds, etc.). Sedge meadow often intergrade with shrub-carr but can be differentiated by having less than 50% cover of tall shrubs.

Rare animals

Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

The following Species of Greatest Conservation Need are listed according to their level of association with the Southern Sedge Meadow natural community type, based on the findings in Wisconsin's 2015 Wildlife Action Plan.

Scores: 3 = high association, 2 = moderate association, and 1 = low association. See the key to association scores for complete definitions.

Blanchard's Cricket FrogAcris blanchardi3
Pickerel FrogLithobates palustris3
Four-toed SalamanderHemidactylium scutatum2

Ants, wasps, and beesScore
Confusing Bumble BeeBombus perplexus1
Yellowbanded Bumble BeeBombus terricola1

Aquatic and terrestrial snailsScore
Transparent Vitrine SnailVitrina angelicae1
Wing SnaggletoothGastrocopta procera1

A Predaceous Diving BeetleColymbetes exaratus2
A Straight-snouted WeevilEutrichapion huron2
A Leaf BeetleCryptocephalus venustus1
A Leaf BeetleBassareus mammifer1
A Leaf BeetleAltica litigata1
A Minute Moss BeetleHydraena angulicollis1
A Pear-shaped WeevilFallapion bischoffi1
A Predaceous Diving BeetleAgabus aeruginosus1

American BitternBotaurus lentiginosus3
BobolinkDolichonyx oryzivorus2
Common NighthawkChordeiles minor2
Eastern MeadowlarkSturnella magna2
Greater Prairie-ChickenTympanuchus cupido2
Henslow's SparrowAmmodramus henslowii2
King RailRallus elegans2
Long-eared OwlAsio otus2
Short-eared OwlAsio flammeus2
Whooping CraneGrus americana2
American WoodcockScolopax minor1
Bell's VireoVireo bellii1
Black TernChlidonias niger1
Black-necked StiltHimantopus mexicanus1
Forster's TernSterna forsteri1
Least BitternIxobrychus exilis1
Purple MartinProgne subis1
Upland SandpiperBartramia longicauda1

Butterflies and mothsScore
Swamp MetalmarkCalephelis muticum2
A Noctuid MothBagisara gulnare1
Gray CopperLycaena dione1
Poweshiek SkipperlingOarisma poweshiek1
Silphium Borer MothPapaipema silphii1

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
Delicate Meadow KatydidOrchelimum delicatum2
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna2
Bog ConeheadNeoconocephalus lyristes1

Leafhoppers and true bugsScore
A LeafhopperLimotettix pseudosphagneticus2
A LeafhopperDestria crocea1
A LeafhopperFlexamia prairiana1
A LeafhopperLimotettix elegans1
Yellow Loosestrife LeafhopperErythroneura carbonata1

Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus3
Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus2
Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis2
Silver-haired BatLasionycteris noctivagans2
Eastern PipistrellePerimyotis subflavus1
Water ShrewSorex palustris1

Butler's GartersnakeThamnophis butleri3
Eastern MassasaugaSistrurus catenatus3
QueensnakeRegina septemvittata3
Western RibbonsnakeThamnophis proximus3
Blanding's TurtleEmydoidea blandingii2
Plains GartersnakeThamnophis radix2
Wood TurtleGlyptemys insculpta2

Please see Section 2. Approach and Methods of the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Rare plants

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

Scores: 3 = "significantly associated," 2 = "moderately associated," and 1 = "minimally associated."
Scientific Name Common Name Score
Agrimonia parviflora Swamp Agrimony 2
Ammannia robusta Scarlet Loosestrife 3
Asclepias hirtella Green Milkweed 1
Carex festucacea Fescue Sedge 2
Carex gracilescens Slender Sedge 2
Carex laevivaginata Smooth-sheathed Sedge 3
Carex prasina Drooping Sedge 1
Carex schweinitzii Schweinitz's Sedge 3
Carex straminea Straw Sedge 2
Carex suberecta Prairie Straw Sedge 2
Cuscuta glomerata Rope Dodder 2
Eleocharis engelmannii Engelmann's Spike-rush 2
Eleocharis flavescens var. olivacea Capitate Spike-rush 2
Eleocharis wolfii Wolf Spike-rush 2
Epilobium strictum Downy Willow-herb 3
Galium brevipes Swamp Bedstraw 3
Hypericum mutilum Slender St. John's-wort 3
Hypericum sphaerocarpum Round-fruited St. John's Wort 2
Myosotis laxa Small Forget-me-not 2
Napaea dioica Glade Mallow 3
Platanthera flava var. herbiola Pale Green Orchid 2
Prenanthes crepidinea Nodding Rattlesnake-root 2
Rhexia virginica Virginia Meadow-beauty 1
Rotala ramosior Toothcup 3
Salix sericea Silky Willow 3
Scirpus georgianus Georgia Bulrush 2
Scirpus pallidus Pale Bulrush 2
Senna hebecarpa Northern Wild Senna 2
Silene nivea Snowy Campion 3
Thalictrum revolutum Waxleaf Meadowrue 2
Triglochin palustris Slender Bog Arrow-grass 1
Valeriana edulis var. ciliata Hairy Valerian 2


The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for Southern Sedge Meadow, based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Major (3 on map)
A major opportunity for sustaining the natural community in the Ecological Landscape exists, either because many significant occurrences of the natural community have been recorded in the landscape or major restoration activities are likely to be successful maintaining the community's composition, structure, and ecological function over a longer period of time.

Important (2 on map)
Although the natural community does not occur extensively or commonly in the Ecological Landscape, one to several occurrences do occur and are important in sustaining the community in the state. In some cases, important opportunities may exist because the natural community may be restricted to just one or a few Ecological Landscapes within the state and there may be a lack of opportunities elsewhere.

Present (1 on map)
The natural community occurs in the Ecological Landscape, but better management opportunities appear to exist in other parts of the state.


Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

What are conservation actions?

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for natural communities


The following are additional considerations for Southern Sedge Meadow in Ecological Landscapes with opportunities for protection, restoration, and/or management. For more information, see the Wildlife Action Plan.

Central Lake Michigan Coastal

Examples of this type are found at Point Beach State Forest (Manitowoc County) and Green Bay Shores State Wildlife Area (Brown County).

Central Sand Hills

Examples of this type in this Ecological Landscape are found at French Creek State Wildlife Area (Columbia County), Fox River Crane Marsh (Marquette County), and Grand River Marsh State Wildlife Area (Green Lake County).

Central Sand Plains

Examples of this type are found at Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area (Adams County), Meadow Valley Wildlife Area (Juneau County), and several locations on public lands elsewhere in this Ecological Landscape. The more acidic northern sedge meadow and poor fen communities are the most common open wetland types in this landscape.

Northern Lake Michigan Coastal

Southern sedge meadow occurs at Peshtigo Harbor State Wildlife Area (Marinette County) and Green Bay West Shores State Wildlife Area (Oconto and Brown counties).

Southeast Glacial Plains

Examples of this type are found at Scuppernong Marsh, at several additional locations within the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, at the Upper Mukwonago River Wetlands (Walworth County), White River Marsh State Wildlife Area (Green Lake County), Rush Lake Meadows (Winnebago County), and South Waubesa Wetlands State Natural Area (Dane County).

Southern Lake Michigan Coastal

Small patches of southern sedge meadow are associated with more extensive wetland communities of other types at Big Muskego Lake (Waukesha County), Chiwaukee Prairie (Kenosha County), and Mission Hills Wetlands (Milwaukee County).

Western Coulee and Ridges

Examples of this type are found at Tiffany Bottoms State Wildlife Area (Buffalo County), Avoca Prairie State Natural Area (Iowa County), and at several locations within the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway.


Southern Sedge Meadow Photos

Southern Sedge Meadow Photo

Extensive southern sedge meadow bordering the Mukanago River. Walworth County.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

Southern Sedge Meadow Photo

Large, open, tussock sedge and bluejoint grass dominated wet meadow dominated meadow with cattails. Winchester Meadows, Winnebago County.

Photo by Andrew Galvin.

Southern Sedge Meadow Photo

Intact meadow of tussock sedge and Canada bluejoint grass borders this stretch of the White River in Green Lake County. Southeast Glacial Plains ecological landscape.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

Southern Sedge Meadow Photo

Stream surrounded by Southern Sedge Meadow that is part of an extensive wetland complex. Lulu Lake State Natural Area.

Photo by  staff.

Southern Sedge Meadow Photo

Southern Sedge Meadow at Goose Lake Drumlins SNA domianted by Carex lasiocarpa, C. stricta, C. utriculata, and C. aquatilis.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor.

Note: photos are provided to illustrate various examples of natural community types. A single photograph cannot represent the range of variability inherent in a given community type. Some of these photos explicitly illustrate unusual and distinctive community variants. The community photo galleries are a work in progress that we will expand and improve in the future.

Last revised: Wednesday, June 16, 2021