Mountain Sedge

Superficially sedges resemble grasses. The sedge family is large and contains several genera. Sedges are difficult to identify and often require the use of a microscope or field lens – as well as experience and expertise. Sedges have three-angled stems which are not hollow. With few exceptions, sedges are aquatic or prefer moist habitats.

The largest genus, Carex, has over 2000 species and is well-represented in Northeast California where we live. Members of this genus have sepals and petals replaced by a sac-like structure, known as the perigynium, that encloses the ovary and fruit (seed). The single seed does not split open.

I believe, but certainly could be wrong, that the pictured sedge is mountain sedge (Carex scopulorum). There are several subspecies of this genus. Mountain sedge is native to Western United States. A perennial, mountain sedge has an unbranched flower-bearing stalk arising from rhizomes. The leaves are blades with parallel veins and distinct midribs that extend from the stalk. The flowers are in spikes, several of which combine to form the inflorescence. The terminal flower spike is male and the lateral spikes are female. The perigynia are a purple-brown color.

Carex sedges have little economic value, although they are popular in landscaping and wildlife restoration. More importantly, sedges are valuable as forage and habitat for wildlife species.

The pictured sedges were growing in and along Ash Creek (Lassen County CA).

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