Carex brunnescens (Pers.) Poir.

brownish 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

Brownish sedge is morphologically variable across its distribution. It is considered threatened or endangered in some midwestern states.

Habitat

Alpine or subalpine zones, bogs, fens, forests, mountain summits and plateaus, wetland margins (edges of wetlands)

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
stem leaf blade width
0.5–2.5 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 is not borne on a peduncle
Top spike
the uppermost spike contains both staminate and carpellate flowers, with the staminate flowers located below the carpellate flowers
Perigynium hairs
the perigynium has no hairs
Perigynium length
2–2.5 mm
Leaf sheath color
the leaf sheath has no pink, red or purple tinting
Leaf blade texture
the leaf blade is smooth and hairless, or rough and sandpapery
Perigynium beak teeth
  • the perigynium beak is divided at the top into two 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
    there are no papillae on the perigynium surface
    Inflorescence length
    15–70 mm
    Length of scale
    the scale is shorter than the perigynium
    Lowest spike stalk length
    0 mm
    Perigynium beak
    the perigynium has a beak
    Perigynium beak length
    0.1–0.3 mm
    Perigynium beak orientation
    the beak of the perigynium is straight, and in line with the perigynium
    Perigynium beak serrations
    the perigynium beak has tiny serrations along the edges
    Perigynium beak teeth
    • the perigynium beak is divided at the top into two teeth
    • the perigynium beak is not divided at the tip into two teeth, or the teeth are very tiny
    Perigynium beak teeth length
    At least 0 mm
    Perigynium color
    brown
    Perigynium 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
    2–2.5 mm
    Perigynium nerve texture
    the nerves on the perigynium are raised, even after drying the perigynium
    Perigynium orientation
    • the perigynia are angled outwards
    • 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)
    • the perigynium body is ovate (egg-shaped)
    Perigynium width
    0.8–1.5 mm
    Perigynium winged
    the perigynium has no wings
    Pollen- and seed-producing spikes
    some of the spikes produce perigynia
    Pollen-producing spike length
    0 mm
    Pollen-producing spike number
    0
    Pollen-producing spike peduncle length
    0 mm
    Pollen-producing spike width
    0 mm
    Scale awn
    The carpellate scale does not have an awn (it may have a short point)
    Scale awn texture
    NA
    Scale color
    • green
    • white or translucent
    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 is not borne on a peduncle
    Spike orientation
    the spikes are oriented vertically or pressed against the axis
    Spikes per stem
    2-15
    Staminate scale tip
    • the staminate scale tip is acute (has a sharp point)
    • the staminate scale tip is obtuse (has a blunt point)
    Stigma branching
    the stigmas have two branches
    Top spike
    the uppermost spike contains both staminate and carpellate flowers, with the staminate flowers located below the carpellate flowers
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene dimples
    the achene has no folds or dimples
    Achene length
    1.25–1.5 mm
    Achene width
    0.8–1 mm
    Style persistence
    the style falls off the mature achenes
  • Growth form
    Rhizomes
    there are no rhizomes, or the rhizomes are very short
  • Leaves
    Leaf arrangement
    the leaves are all produced from the base of the plant
    Leaf blade cross-section
    The leaf blade is folded lengthwise, with one prominent midvien
    Leaf blade length to width ratio
    200
    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 color
    the leaf sheath has no pink, red or purple tinting
    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
    0.5–2.5 mm
    Lowest leaf sheath texture
    the leaf sheath feels smooth (it may have soft hairs)
    stem leaf blade width
    0.5–2.5 mm
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • alpine or subalpine zones
    • bogs
    • edges of wetlands
    • fens
    • forests
    • mountain summits and plateaus
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    15–90 cm
    Relative stem height
    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 close together in compact clusters or tufts

Wetland Status

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

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

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

Conservation Status

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

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. sphaerostachya

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. brunnescens

New Hampshire
unrankable (S-rank: SU), Ind (code: Ind)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Carex arcta:
perigynia ovate in outline, widest near the base, and inflorescence composed of 5-15 spikes that are aggregated together (vs. C. brunnescens, with perigynia elliptic-ovate in outline, widest near the middle, and inflorescence composed of mostly 3-8 spikes where the lowest are usually separate).
Carex canescens:
each spike composed of mostly 10-20 closely ascending perigynia (vs. C. brunnescens, with each spike composed of mostly 5-10 loosely ascending perigynia).

Family

Cyperaceae

Genus

Carex

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Carex brunnescens var. brunnescens (Pers.) Poir. is known from ME, NH, VT, usually at high altitude.C. brunnescens var. sphaerostachya (Tuckerman) Kükenth. is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT in a variety of plant communities.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

69.  Carex brunnescens (Pers.) Poir. N

brownish sedge. 69a. Carex canescens L.  var. alpicola Wahlenb.; 69b. Carex brunnescens ssp. sphaerostachya (Tuckerman) Kalela; C. canescens L. var. sphaerostachya Tuckerman • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Hydric or seasonally hydric soils of wetland edges, peatlands, and evergreen forests, also ascending high into the mountains and then often associated with disturbed soil.

1a.  Leaf blades (1–) 1.5–2.5 mm wide; reproductive stems usually erect (less commonly ascending or arching), usually 15–60 cm tall; uppermost spike without or with an obscure, slender, staminate base … 69a. C. brunnescens var. brunnescens

1b.  Leaf blades (0.5–) 1–1.5 mm wide; reproductive stems ascending to arching, usually 30–90 cm tall; uppermost spike often with a short, but evident, slender, staminate base 
 … 69b. C. brunnescens var. sphaerostachya (Tuckerman) Kükenth.

Variety brunnescens is known from ME, NH, VT, usually high in the mountains, sometimes 
even near treeline. It frequently grows along trail edges and other disturbed places. 
It has also been reported from CT, MA, RI by Toivonen (2002), but specimens are unknown. 
Variety sphaerostachya is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. It occurs over a wider range 
of plant communities.