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Prairie Straw Sedge (Carex suberecta)

Life history

Species overview

Prairie Straw Sedge (Carex suberecta), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in fens and moist to wet calcareous meadows and prairies. Blooming occurs late May through early June; fruiting occurs throughout June. The optimal identification period for this species is throughout June.

Synonyms: Carex tenera var. suberecta


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Cespitose; leaves usually less than 2.5 to 3 mm wide, sheaths conspicuously green-veined nearly to collar; perigynia appressed, 2.1 to 2.6 mm wide, broadest at about the middle, 4 to 5 mm long, diamond shaped in general outline (not strongly curved toward the base).
  • Flower characteristics: 2 to 5 spikes, distant, distinct, ovoid, base rounded or short-acute, apex acute.
  • Fruit characteristics: 15 to 80 perigynia in larger spikes, appressed, usually golden brown, 2.1 to 2.6 mm wide, broadest at about the middle, 4 to 5 mm long, conspicuously 6 to 9-veined abaxially, inconspicuously veined adaxially, diamond shaped in general outline, flat except over achene, base subacute or acute, margin flat, smooth; beak appressed, golden brown at tip, flat, ciliate serrulate, abaxial suture with hyaline, golden brown margin; achenes elliptic to ovate.
  • Leaf characteristics: Sheaths adaxially conspicuously green-veined nearly to collar, narrow hyaline band or sharp Y-shaped region at collar, adaxially firm, summits U-shaped; 2 to 5 blades per fertile culm, usually less than 2.5 to 3 mm wide.


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


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Section: Ovales
  • Comments: Associated Species: Ascepias incarnata, Carex hystricina, Aster puniceus, Eupatorium maculatum, Angelica atropurpurea, Monarda fistulosa, Lycopus americanus, Parnassia glauca.

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

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG4
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 fens and moist to wet calcareous meadows and prairies.
  • Soils: Moist to wet, calcareous soils.

Natural communities

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

Natural communities score
Southern Sedge Meadow 2
Calcareous Fen 3
Bog Relict 1

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Prairie 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
Southeast Glacial Plains 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 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

  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • 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.
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.


Prairie Straw Sedge Photo.

Photo © Kenneth Dritz.

Prairie 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