Carex capillaris L.

hair-like 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

Hair-like sedge is divided into two subspecies in New England. One, (Carex capillaris ssp. fuscidula) occurs only in New Hampshire, and is found in alpine habitats; while the other (C. capillaris ssp. capillaris) occurs in Maine and Vermont and is found on wet cliffs and river shore outcrops on calcareous bedrock. Hair-like sedge is listed as threatened in all three states.

Habitat

Alpine or subalpine zones, cliffs, balds, or ledges, shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
stem leaf blade width
1–2.5 mm
Lowest bract sheath
the lowest bract has a sheath longer than four millimeters
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
2.3–3.5 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
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Bumps on fruit
    there are no papillae on the perigynium surface
    Length of scale
    the scale is shorter than the perigynium
    Lowest spike length
    5–20 mm
    Lowest spike stalk length
    3–40 mm
    Lowest spike width
    3–4 mm
    Perigynium beak
    the perigynium has a beak
    Perigynium beak length
    0.3–0.6 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
    • the perigynium beak has tiny serrations along the edges
    Perigynium beak teeth
    the perigynium beak is divided at the top into two teeth
    Perigynium color
    • brown
    • green
    Perigynium cross-section
    the perigynium is trigonous (triangular) in cross-section
    Perigynium hairs
    the perigynium has no hairs
    Perigynium length
    2.3–3.5 mm
    Perigynium nerve number
    2
    Perigynium nerve texture
    NA
    Perigynium nerves lower side
    1
    Perigynium nerves upper side
    1
    Perigynium orientation
    the perigynia are oriented vertically or pressed against the axis or adjacent perigynia
    Perigynium puffy
    the perigynium is inflated (there is space between the perigynium and the achene)
    Perigynium shape
    • the perigynium body is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
    • the perigynium body is ovate (egg-shaped)
    Perigynium width
    0.8–1.2 mm
    Perigynium winged
    the perigynium has no wings
    Pollen- and seed-producing spikes
    some of the spikes produce perigynia
    Pollen-producing spike length
    4–10 mm
    Pollen-producing spike number
    0–1
    Pollen-producing spike peduncle length
    At least 0 mm
    Pollen-producing spike width
    0.7–1.4 mm
    Scale awn
    The carpellate scale does not have an awn (it may have a short point)
    Scale awn texture
    NA
    Scale color
    • brown
    • tan
    • white or translucent
    Scale length
    1.8–2.8 mm
    Scale tip
    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 angled outwards, or arched over
    • the spikes are bent downwards or droop downwards
    • 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 three branches
    Top spike
    the uppermost spike contains only staminate flowers
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene dimples
    the achene has no folds or dimples
    Achene length
    1.2–1.7 mm
    Achene width
    0.7–1 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
    • the leaf blade is flat or M-shaped, with two prominent side-veins
    Leaf blade length to width ratio
    23–27
    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 a sheath longer than four millimeters
    Lowest leaf blade width
    1–2.5 mm
    Lowest leaf sheath texture
    the leaf sheath feels smooth (it may have soft hairs)
    stem leaf blade width
    1–2.5 mm
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Maine
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • alpine or subalpine zones
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    10–60 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
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)
Vermont
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), threatened (code: T)

ssp. fuscidula

New Hampshire
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Carex arctata:
leaf blades mostly 3-10 mm wide, M-shaped or flat in cross-section, and perigynia 3-5 mm long (vs. C. capillaris, with leaf blades mostly 1-4 mm wide, flat or folded in cross-section, and perigynia 2.3-3.5 mm long).

Synonyms

  • Carex capillaris L. ssp. robustior (Drej. ex Lange) Böcher
  • Carex capillaris L. var. elongata Olney ex Fern.

Family

Cyperaceae

Genus

Carex

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Subspecies fuscidula is known from NH and occurs in alpine habitats. Subspecies capillaris 
 is known from ME, VT and occurs on high-pH bedrock at lower elevations (e.g., boreal cliffs, river shore outcrops, and seeps). Both subspecies are of regional conservation concern.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

30.  Carex capillaris L. NC

hair-like sedge.  30a. Carex fuscidula V. Krecz. ex Egorova;  30b. Carex capillaris L. var. elongata Olney ex Fern.; C. capillaris L. ssp. robustior (Drej. ex Lange) Böcher • ME, NH, VT. 
Wet cliffs, river shore outcrops, seeps, and wet-mesic alpine lawns.

1a.  Staminate spike partly enclosed in sheath of lowest bract of inflorescence, situated at or below the level of the uppermost carpellate spike, borne on a smooth peduncle 1.5–7 mm long; carpellate scales red-brown to orange-brown (the margins and sometimes also the midrib pale), usually acute at the apex; beak of perigynium usually smooth, relatively abruptly tapering from the body, 0.6–1.2 mm long; stem leaf blades 0.5–1.4 (–2) mm wide; lowermost bract of inflorescence with a sheath 1.7–7 (–10) mm long 
 … 30a. C. capillaris ssp. fuscidula (V. Krecz. ex Egorova) A. & D. Löve

1b.  Staminate spike exserted from sheath of lowest bract of inflorescence, situated at or above the level of the uppermost carpellate spike, borne on a scabrous peduncle (3–) 7–40 mm long; carpellate scales white-brown to pale brown, usually obtuse to nearly truncate at the apex; beak of perigynium scabrous, gradually tapering from the body, 0.3–0.6 mm long; stem leaf blades 1–2.1 (–2.5) mm wide; lowermost bract of inflorescence 
with a sheath 4–30 mm long … 30b. C. capillaris ssp. capillaris

Subspecies fuscidula is known from NH and occurs in alpine habitats. Subspecies capillaris 
 is known from ME, VT and occurs on high-pH bedrock at lower elevations (e.g., boreal cliffs, river shore outcrops, and seeps). Both subspecies are of regional conservation concern.