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Chestnut Sedge (Fimbristylis puberula)

Life history

Species overview

Chestnut Sedge (Fimbristylis puberula), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found rarely in Lake Michigan coastal prairie. Blooming occurs early June through late August; fruiting occurs late July through late September. The optimal identification period for this species is late July through late September.

Synonyms: Fimbristylis anomala, Fimbristylis castanea var. puberula, Fimbristylis drummondii, Fimbristylis puberula var. drummondii, Scirpus puberulus


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Rhizomes short, stout, and knotty; scapes terete or broadly oval in section, smooth, widespread.
  • Flower characteristics: 3 stamens; styles 2-parted, flat fimbriate; anthelae simple or compound, compact or diffuse; scapes slender, wandlike; spikelets variously red-brown, broadly ovoid to lance-cylindric.
  • Fruit characteristics: Achenes yellowish to dark brown, lenicular-obovoid, 1 mm, with 11 to 20 vertical lines of pits.
  • Leaf characteristics: Ascending, glabrous to pubescent; sheaths apically ciliate; ligule essentialy absent (except in rhizomatous individuals); blades narrowly linear; scabrid-ciliate.


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


  • Growth form: Graminoid
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Andropogon gerardii, Aster ericoides, Allium cernuum, Dodecatheon meadia, Lobelia spicata, Pedicularis canadensis, Senecio pauperculus, Phlox glaberrima ssp. interior.

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 Chestnut Sedge (Fimbristylis puberula). 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 Fimbristylis puberula in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
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 rarely in Lake Michigan coastal prairie.
  • Soils: Moist clays to sands or sandy peats; acidic to basic sites.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Chestnut 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
Wet-mesic Prairie 3
Mesic Prairie 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Chestnut 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
Southern Lake Michigan Coastal 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

  • 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.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).


Chestnut Sedge Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Chestnut Sedge Photo.

Close up of inflorescence.

Photo © Lori Artiomow.

Chestnut Sedge Photo.

Close up of inflorescence.

Photo © Lori Artiomow.

Chestnut Sedge Photo.

Photo © George R. Van Brunt.

Chestnut 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