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Carey's Sedge (Carex careyana)

Life history

Species overview

Carey's Sedge (Carex careyana), a Wisconsin Threatened plant, is found in rich hardwood forests, often with calcareous substrates. Blooming occurs throughout June; fruiting occurs throughout July. The optimal identification period for this species is early June through early July.

Synonyms: None


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Densely cespitose; basal sheaths reddish-purple (C. albursina basal sheaths white); at least some leaves over 1 cm wide; peduncles of lateral female spikes usually erect or spreading, rarely drooping; perigynia 5 to 6.5 mm long (C. plantaginea 4 to 5 mm long); longest lateral spike with 4 to 9 perignia.
  • Flower characteristics: 2 to 4 spikes per culm, scattered; female spikes proximal sometimes basal; male spikes pedunculate, oblanceolate to linear.
  • Fruit characteristics: 4 to 9 perigynia per spike, overlapping, finely veined, ovoid, 5 to 6 mm long; achenes broadly ovoid, slightly to distincly concave at maturity, tightly fitting in perigynia.
  • Leaf characteristics: Basal sheaths reddish-purple, sheaths 15 to 29 mm; some blades at least 1 cm wide, erect or ascending, green, midrib and 2 lateral veins strongly developed, older ones shriveling or dead at tips.


  • Blooming phenology: throughout June
  • Fruiting phenology: throughout July
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early June through early July


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Section: Careyanae
  • Comments: Associated Species: Acer saccharum, Quercus rubra, Tilia americana, Carex albursina, C. plantaginea.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Carey's Sedge (Carex careyana). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Carex careyana in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG4G5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

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.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in rich hardwood forests, often with calcareous substrates.
  • Soils: Moist soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Carey's Sedge. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Southern Mesic Forest 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Carey's Sedge. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Western Coulee and Ridges 3

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid site preparation that heavily disturbs herbaceous ground layer and soil; these include bulldozing and furrowing, as well as grubbing and stump removal.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • This species is intolerant of canopy removal. Therefore, single-tree selection is recommended as long as the microclimate is not impacted significantly.
  • Maintain high forest canopy cover; this species requires shaded habitat conditions.


Carey's Sedge Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Carey's Sedge Photo.

Photo ©  summerazure.

Carey's Sedge Photo.

Carey's sedge can be identified by its relatively large, sparse perigynia (5-6 mm long).

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Carey's Sedge Photo.

Carey's sedge can be identified by its relatively large, sparse perigynia (5-6 mm long).

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Carey's Sedge Photo.

Carey's sedge can be identified, in part, by its wide leaves (over 1 cm), and red leaf bases.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition