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Torrey's Sedge (Carex torreyi)

Life history

Species overview

Torrey's Sedge (Carex torreyi), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in dry dolomite prairies on the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers, as well as in white oak savannas in southeast Wisconsin. Blooming occurs late May through early June; fruiting occurs early June through early July. The optimal identification period for this species is late June through early July.

Synonyms: Carex abbreviata


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Cespitose; leaves and sheaths pubsescent; terminal spikelet usually staminate; perigynia ovate or obovate, glabrous, strongly 15 to 25 veined, abruptly tipped with a short, toothless beak.
  • Flower characteristics: Lateral spikes approximate or proximal distant; terminal spike staminate or, rarely, pistillate with not more than 1 to 4 female flowers.
  • Fruit characteristics: Perigynia ascending, strongly 15 to 25-veined, ovate or obovate, glabrous, appruptly tipped with a short (0.2 to 0.5 mm long), toothless beak.
  • Leaf characteristics: Sheaths pubescent; ligules longer than wide; blades pubescent.


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


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Section: Porocystis
  • Comments: Associated Species: Quercus alba, Lathyrus ochroleucus, Carex pensylvanica, Luzula multiflora.

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 Torrey's Sedge (Carex torreyi). 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 torreyi in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
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 dry dolomite prairies on the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers, as well as in white oak savannas in southeast Wisconsin.
  • Soils: Calcareous soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Torrey'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
Dry Prairie 3
Oak Opening 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Torrey's 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 locating landings, staging areas, or access routes in open sandy areas dominated by native grasses.
  • 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

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


Torrey's Sedge Photo.

Torrey's sedge (Carex torreyi) can be identified by its short, stalkless male spikelet (brown) and the rounded perigynia, which abruptly contract into a short, sharp beak.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Torrey's Sedge Photo.

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