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Straw Sedge (Carex straminea)

Life history

Species overview

Straw Sedge (Carex straminea), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on lakeshores in jack pine barrens and with sphagnum mosses in sandy, wet meadows and ditches. Blooming occurs throughout June; fruiting occurs throughout July. The optimal identification period for this species is throughout July.

Synonyms: Carex straminea var. straminea, C. richii


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Densely cespitose; spikes 3 to 7, the lowermost widely separated and not overlapping, each abruptly contracted at the base where the staminate portion is found; perigynia widely spreading, reddish brown, over 2 mm wide, conspicuoulsy 5-veined or more on each face.
  • Flower characteristics: 3 to 7 spikes, distant, distinct, globose, base usually attenuate, apex rounded; lateral spikes with male portion 2 to 6 mm at base.
  • Fruit characteristics: Perigynia widely spreading, reddish brown, over 2.2 to 2.5 mm wide, conspicuoulsy 5-veined or more on each face, flat except over achene, base rounded, margin flat; beak widely spreading, pale to reddish brown at tip, flat, ciliate-serrulate, abaxial suture with golden brown margin; achenes elliptic.
  • Leaf characteristics: Sheaths adaxially green-veined nearly to collar, narrow hyaline band or sharp Y-shaped region at collar, adaxially firm, summits U-shaped; 3 to 4 blades per fertile culm.


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


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Section: Ovales
  • Comments: Associated Species: Pinus banksiana, Quercus ellipsoidalis.

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 Straw Sedge (Carex straminea). 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 straminea in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
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 lakeshores in jack pine barrens and with sphagnum mosses in sandy, wet meadows and ditches.
  • Soils: Moist to wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Straw 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).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Straw 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
Central Sand Plains 3
Western Coulee and Ridges 2

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 sandy swales and wet, peaty areas in forests where this species has been reported.
  • 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.
  • Avoid direct disturbance to sensitive microsites such as seeps, cliffs, and moss-covered boulders.

Management guidance

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

  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Avoid disturbance to shorelines and the forest-beach interface.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).


Straw Sedge Photo.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Straw Sedge Photo.

Straw sedge perigynia are orbicular or widest above the middle.

Photo © Chris Noll.

Straw Sedge Photo.

Scanned specimen courtesy of Wisconsin Herbarium

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