Carex bigelowii Torr. ex Schwein.

Bigelow's sedge

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Bigelow's sedge is a high-altitude species, found only on alpine ridges and plateaus. Typically found as scattered individuals, it can occasionally dominate tundra or sedge meadows.

Habitat

Alpine or subalpine zones, ridges or ledges

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
stem leaf blade width
1.5–4 mm
Lowest bract sheath
the lowest bract has no sheath (or a very short sheath up to four millimeters in length)
Spike on stalk
the lowest spike on the plant has a peduncle
Top spike
the uppermost spike contains only staminate flowers
Perigynium hairs
the perigynium has no hairs
Perigynium length
1.8–3.5 mm
Leaf blade texture
the leaf blade is smooth and hairless, or rough and sandpapery
Perigynium beak teeth
the perigynium beak is not divided at the tip into two teeth, or the teeth are very tiny
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Bumps on fruit
    the perigynium surface has papillae on it
    Length of scale
    • the scale is nearly as long as, or longer than, the perigynium
    • the scale is shorter than the perigynium
    Lowest spike length
    7–30 mm
    Lowest spike width
    3–4 mm
    Perigynium beak
    the perigynium has a beak
    Perigynium beak length
    0–1 mm
    Perigynium beak orientation
    the beak of the perigynium is straight, and in line with the perigynium
    Perigynium beak serrations
    the perigynium beak has no serrations
    Perigynium beak teeth
    the perigynium beak is not divided at the tip into two teeth, or the teeth are very tiny
    Perigynium beak teeth length
    0 mm
    Perigynium color
    green
    Perigynium cross-section
    • the perigynium is biconvex (convexly rounded on both sides, like a lens) in cross-section
    • the perigynium is planoconvex (flat on one surface and rounded on the other) in cross-section
    Perigynium hairs
    the perigynium has no hairs
    Perigynium length
    1.8–3.5 mm
    Perigynium nerve number
    0–4
    Perigynium nerve texture
    • NA
    • the nerves on the perigynium are raised, even after drying the perigynium
    Perigynium nerves lower side
    1–4
    Perigynium nerves upper side
    1–4
    Perigynium orientation
    the perigynia are oriented vertically or pressed against the axis or adjacent perigynia
    Perigynium puffy
    the achene is tightly enclosed by the perigynium
    Perigynium shape
    the perigynium body is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    Perigynium width
    1.1–2 mm
    Perigynium winged
    the perigynium has no wings
    Pollen- and seed-producing spikes
    some of the spikes produce perigynia
    Pollen-producing spike length
    5–20 mm
    Pollen-producing spike number
    1–2
    Scale awn
    The carpellate scale does not have an awn (it may have a short point)
    Scale awn texture
    NA
    Scale color
    purple to black
    Scale tip
    • the carpellate scale tip is acute (has a sharp point)
    • the carpellate scale tip is obtuse (has a blunt point)
    Spike on stalk
    the lowest spike on the plant has a peduncle
    Spike orientation
    the spikes are oriented vertically or pressed against the axis
    Spikes per stem
    2-15
    Stigma branching
    the stigmas have two branches
    Top spike
    the uppermost spike contains only staminate flowers
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene dimples
    the achene has no folds or dimples
    Style persistence
    the style falls off the mature achenes
  • Growth form
    Rhizomes
    there are long rhizomes present
  • Leaves
    Leaf arrangement
    the leaves are all produced from the base of the plant
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is smooth and hairless, or rough and sandpapery
    Leaf bumps
    the upper surface of the leaf blade does not have papillae
    Leaf sheath bumps
    there are no papillae at the top edge of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath dots
    there are no dots on the leaf sheathes
    Leaf sheath folds
    there are no corrugations on the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath texture
    the leaf sheath feels smooth, and has no hairs
    Lowest bract sheath
    the lowest bract has no sheath (or a very short sheath up to four millimeters in length)
    Lowest leaf blade width
    1.5–4 mm
    Lowest leaf sheath texture
    the leaf sheath feels smooth (it may have soft hairs)
    stem leaf blade width
    1.5–4 mm
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Maine
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • alpine or subalpine zones
    • ridges or ledges
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    10–50 cm
    Relative stem height
    • the main stem is equal to or shorter than the leaves
    • the main stem is taller than the leaves
    Stem cross-section
    the main stem is roughly triangular in cross-section
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow singly or a few together (they may form diffuse colonies)

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACW)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
absent
Maine
present
Massachusetts
absent
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Maine
rare (S-rank: S2), special concern (code: SC)

ssp. bigelowii

New Hampshire
rare (S-rank: S2), threatened (code: T)
Vermont
extremely rare (S-rank: S1)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Carex nigra:
perigynia with 3-9 veins on each surface, the beak with scabrules about the orifice (vs. C. bigelowii, with perigynia without veins or with 1-4 obscure veins on one surface, the beak without scabrules).

Synonyms

  • Carex rigida Goodenough
  • Carex rigida Goodenough var. bigelowii (Torr. ex Schwein.) Tuckerman
  • Carex rigida Goodenough var. concolor (R. Br.) Kükenth.

Family

Cyperaceae

Genus

Carex

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our subspecies is Carex bigelowii Torr. ex Schwein. ssp. bigelowii.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

131.  Carex bigelowii Torr. ex Schwein. ssp. bigelowii N

Bigelow’s sedge. Carex rigida Goodenough; C. rigida Goodenough var. bigelowii (Torr. 
ex Schwein.) Tuckerman; C. rigida Goodenough var. concolor (R. Br.) Kükenth. • ME, NH, VT. Alpine ridges and plateaus.