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Intermediate Sedge (Carex media)

Life history

Species overview

Intermediate Sedge (Carex media), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found on algific talus slope in mesic forests. Blooming occurs late May; fruiting occurs throughout June. The optimal identification period for this species is late May through late June.

Synonyms: Carex angarae, Carex norvegica var. inferalpina, Carex vahlii var. inferalpina


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Similar to Carex buxbaumii, from which it is distinguished by the short, broad pistillate scales and lack of filamentous basal sheaths.
  • Flower characteristics: Spikes 2 to 3; terminal spike usually gynecandrous; pistillate spikes more or less sessile; stigmas 3.
  • Fruit characteristics: Perigynia usually erect, proximal ones sometimes reflexed, pale green becoming golden brown, veinless or few-veined from base to summit, ovate, distal margins occasionally serrulate, apex gradually or abruptly beaked, smooth or papillose; beak bidentate, smooth or serrulate; achenes nearly filling body of perigynia.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaves flat, 1.5 to 3 mm wide; basal sheaths not fibrous or ladder-fibrillose; sheath fronts membranous, mouth entire; bract of lowest pistillate spikelet sheathless.


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


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Section: Racemosae
  • Comments: Associated Species: Fraxinus nigra, Cornus alternifolia, Actaea rubra, Campanula rotundifolia, Galium boreale, Aquilegia canadensis, Betula papyrifera, Dodecatheon spp.

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 Intermediate Sedge (Carex media). 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 media in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
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 on algific talus slope in mesic forests.
  • Soils: Moist soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Intermediate 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
Algific Talus Slope 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Intermediate 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 rocky slopes in forests where this plant has been reported.
  • 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

  • Buffer management around unique microhabitats such as ephemeral ponds, seeps, etc.
  • Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.
  • Maintain high forest canopy cover; this species requires shaded habitat conditions.


Intermediate Sedge Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

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