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Slender Wood Sedge (Carex digitalis var. digitalis)

Life history

Species overview

Slender Wood Sedge (Carex digitalis var. digitalis), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in rich forests in southeastern Wisconsin. Blooming occurs April through May; fruiting occurs April through May. The optimal identification period for this species is May to June.

Synonyms: Carex digitalis var. asymmetrica


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Triangular culms, which are not easily compressed, basal pistillate spikes and basal sheaths white or brown (not purple). Distinguished from the similar C. laxiculmis by its narrower leaf blades.
  • Flower characteristics: Staminate spike terminal, prominently peduncled; pistillate spike erect to drooping, lowest spike basal, 6 to 18 mm long.
  • Fruit characteristics: Perigynia 3 to 9 per spike, uninflated, glaborous, three-sided, obovoid and with a short beak; pistillate scales acute.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaves erect or ascending, flat, 8 to 44 mm long and up to 5 mm wide.


  • Blooming phenology: April through May
  • Fruiting phenology: April through May
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is May to June


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Section:
  • Comments: Associated Species: Aster macrophyllus, Fragaria sp., Luzula sp., Geranium maculatum, Acer saccharum, Fraxinus americana, Betula papyrifera, Ostrya virginica, Acer rubrum.

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 Slender Wood Sedge (Carex digitalis var. digitalis). 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 digitalis var. digitalis in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5T5
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 forests in southeastern Wisconsin.
  • Soils:

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Slender Wood 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 Slender Wood Sedge. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

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 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.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

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

  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.
  • Although maintaining high overall forest canopy is important, silvicultural techniques which open small gaps in the canopy may be beneficial to this species.


Slender Wood Sedge Photo.

Photo © Ken Womble.

Slender Wood Sedge Photo.

Photo © Charles T. Bryson,

Slender Wood Sedge Photo.

Photo © Charles T. Bryson,

Slender Wood Sedge Photo.

Photo © Ken Womble.

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