Carex hystericina Muhl. ex Willd.

porcupine 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

Porcupine sedge is common on calcareous substrates on lake and stream shores and wet meadows. It can be distinguished from the similar sallow sedge (Carex lurida) by having smaller perigynia (4.5–7.3 × 1.4–2.1 mm versus 6.5–10.8 × 2–3.5 mm in sallow sedge). Porcupine sedge can be distinguished from bearded sedge (C. comosa) by having teeth on the beak of the perigynium that are both shorter than those of bearded sedge (0.3–0.9 mm vs. 1.3–2.1 mm), and straight rather than outcurved.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), fens, meadows and fields, shores of rivers or lakes, swamps

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
stem leaf blade width
2.5–8.5 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 has a peduncle
Top spike
the uppermost spike contains only staminate flowers
Perigynium hairs
the perigynium has no hairs
Perigynium length
4.5–7.3 mm
Leaf sheath color
the leaf sheath is tinted pink, red or purple
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
    Inflorescence length
    25–200 mm
    Length of scale
    the scale is shorter than the perigynium
    Lowest spike length
    15–40 mm
    Lowest spike width
    10–15 mm
    Perigynium beak
    the perigynium has a beak
    Perigynium beak length
    1.9–2.8 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 divided at the top into two teeth
    Perigynium beak teeth length
    0.3–0.9 mm
    Perigynium color
    • green
    • tan
    Perigynium cross-section
    the perigynium is relatively round in cross-section
    Perigynium hairs
    the perigynium has no hairs
    Perigynium length
    4.5–7.3 mm
    Perigynium nerve number
    13–21
    Perigynium nerve texture
    the nerves on the perigynium are raised, even after drying the perigynium
    Perigynium nerves lower side
    6–10
    Perigynium nerves upper side
    6–10
    Perigynium orientation
    • the perigynia are angled outwards
    • 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 elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    Perigynium width
    1.4–2.1 mm
    Perigynium winged
    the perigynium has no wings
    Pollen- and seed-producing spikes
    some of the spikes produce perigynia
    Pollen-producing spike length
    20–40 mm
    Pollen-producing spike number
    1
    Scale awn
    the carpellate scale has an awn on it
    Scale awn texture
    the carpellate scale awn has tiny teeth
    Scale color
    • brown
    • white or translucent
    Scale length
    2.3–6.5 mm
    Scale tip
    the carpellate scale tip is rounded to retuse (blunt or rounded, with a notch at the tip)
    Spike on stalk
    the lowest spike on the plant has a peduncle
    Spike orientation
    • the spikes are bent downwards or droop downwards
    • the spikes are oriented vertically or pressed against the axis
    Spikes per stem
    2-15
    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
    Style persistence
    the style stays on the mature achenes
  • Growth form
    Rhizomes
    there are no rhizomes, or the rhizomes are very short
  • Leaves
    Leaf arrangement
    the leaves are mostly produced higher up on the plant
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is flat or M-shaped, with two prominent side-veins
    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 is tinted pink, red or purple
    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
    2.5–8.5 mm
    Lowest leaf sheath texture
    the leaf sheath feels smooth (it may have soft hairs)
    stem leaf blade width
    2.5–8.5 mm
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • fens
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • shores of rivers or lakes
    • swamps
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    20–100 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 close together in compact clusters or tufts

Wetland Status

Occurs only in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: OBL)

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
fairly widespread (S-rank: S4S5)
New Hampshire
uncommon (S-rank: S3), W (code: W)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Carex lurida:
perigynia with 5-12 veins that remain separate nearly to the apex of the beak, mostly 2-4.2 mm wide, and achenes papillose (vs. C. hystericina, with perigynia with 12-15 veins that converge near the base or middle of the beak, 1-2.2 mm wide, and achenes smooth).
Carex schweinitzii:
stems produced singly or a few together from elongate rhizomes, perigynia with 7-11 veins, and staminate scales acute to acuminate at the apex or sometimes the lowermost scales with a short awn tip (vs. C. hystericina, with stems cespitose with short rhizomes, perigynia with 12-21 veins, and at least some of the staminate scales with scabrous awns).

Family

Cyperaceae

Genus

Carex

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

181.  Carex hystericina Muhl. ex Willd. N

porcupine sedge. CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Lake and stream shores, wet meadows, fens, calcareous seeps, ditches.

181×188. Carex hystericina × Carex schweinitzii This very rare sedge hybrid is known from MA, VT. It generally resembles Carex schweinitzii but has conspicuous anthocyanic coloration on the lower leaf sheaths, shorter rhizomes (these extending as much as 6–8 cm before turning upward to produce a new aerial shoot), perigynia with ca. 10–16 nerves, and staminate scales with some marginal cilia on the body of the scale. In contrast, C. schweinitzii has non-anthocyanic lower sheaths, rhizomes up to ca. 30 cm long (or longer), perigynia with 7–11 nerves, and no marginal cilia on the staminate scales. Carex hystericina has strongly anthocyanic lower sheaths, rhizomes rarely longer than 3 cm, perigynia with 13–21 nerves, and prominently ciliate staminate scales.