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Dry Woods Sedge (Carex albicans var. albicans)

Life history

Species overview

Dry Woods Sedge (Carex albicans var. albicans), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on gravelly dry quartzite cliffs and talus. Blooming occurs late April through early May; fruiting occurs throughout May. The optimal identification period for this species is throughout May.

Synonyms: Carex artitecta, C. artitecta var. subtilirostris, C. emmonsii var. muhlenbergii, C. nigromarginata var. muhlenbergii, C. varia


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Densely cespitose; pistillate scales nearly concealing the perigynia; staminate scales from median portion of staminate spike without prominent midrib extending to tip; perigynia ellipsoid with apical teeth 0.2 to 0.3 mm. Similar to C. pensylvanica but perigynia are ellipsoid rather than globose. Similar to C. peckii but pistillate scales are long and nearly conceal perigynia, rather than being shorter than perigynia.
  • Flower characteristics: Both staminate and pistillate spikes present; lowest cauline spikes overlapping; proximal pistillate spikes 1 to 4; staminate spikes terminal, 8.4 to 11.1 mm x 1 to 1.8 mm.
  • Fruit characteristics: Perigynia pale green, veinless, ellipsoid, finely hairy; beak with tiny apical teeth 0.2 to 0.3 mm.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaf blades pale to bright green, shorter to longer than culms, 0.8 to 2.5 mm wide, herbaceous.


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


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Section: Acrocystis
  • Comments: Associated Species: Pinus strobus, Carex abdita.

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 Dry Woods Sedge (Carex albicans var. albicans). 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 albicans var. albicans 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 on gravelly dry quartzite cliffs and talus.
  • Soils: Gravelly soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Dry Woods 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
Pine Relict 2
Dry Cliff 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Dry Woods 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 Hills 2
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 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

  • Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.


Dry Woods Sedge Photo.

Photo © Mike Haddock.

Dry Woods Sedge Photo.

Photo © Mike Haddock.

Dry Woods Sedge Photo.

Photo © Mike Haddock.

Dry Woods Sedge Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Dry Woods Sedge Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, 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