Comprehensive Description

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This native perennial sedge forms a tuft of culms and leaves up to 3' tall. Both fertile and infertile shoots are produced; the latter tend to be more leafy. The culms are light to medium green, glabrous, and 3-angled. The edges of each culm are rough-textured toward the apex, but they become more smooth below. Fertile shoots have 5-10 alternate leaves along each culm, while infertile shoots have 8-12 alternate leaves (if not more). These leaves are distributed evenly along the length of each culm. The leaf blades are up to 12" long and 3-5 mm. across; they are medium green, glabrous, and widely spreading. The leaf sheaths are light to medium green and glabrous. The summit of each sheath is concave or V-shaped, where it is membranous underneath. Each fertile culm terminates in a narrow inflorescence with 5-12 spikelets; this inflorescence is about 5-9 cm. long, 1 cm. across, and erect to slightly arching. Immature spikelets are light green, but they later become brown. Each spikelet is about 2 cm. long, 3-4 mm. across, and narrowly ellipsoid in shape; it is pointed at the top and wedge-shaped at the bottom. A spikelet consists of a dense cluster of florets and their scales; staminate (male) florets are located toward the bottom, while pistillate (female) florets are located toward the middle and top of the spikelet. The anthers of the male florets are pale yellow or white and cylindrical in shape, while the styles of the female florets are slender and white. Each female floret has a perigynium that is 6–8 mm. long and 1.8–2.0 mm. across; it is narrowly lanceolate-elliptic in shape, tapering to a long beak at the apex and becoming wedge-shaped toward the bottom, where it is occasionally short-truncate. The upper-middle margins of each perigynium are slightly winged and membranous. Each pistillate scale is about 1/2 to 2/3 the length of its perigynium; it is lanceolate-oblong in shape with a green midvein and membranous margins (later turning brown). The bracts of the spikelets are mostly scale-like and insignificant, although the bract of the lowest spikelet may resemble a small leaf. The blooming period occurs during the late spring to early summer. Each fertile female floret produces an achene about 2.0–2.5 mm. in length, which is oblongoid in shape and flattened; it is contained with the perigynium. Because the perigynia are very light, they are easily blown about by the wind or carried on water, thereby distributing the achenes. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous. This sedge forms vegetative offshoots from its rhizomes.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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