IUCN threat status:

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Comprehensive Description

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This native perennial sedge is about 2–2½' tall with unbranched culms. Sometimes it is tufted at the base with multiple culms, otherwise its culms are solitary; vegetative shoots may be present as well. Each mature culm has several alternate leaves; it is triangular and hairless. The leaf blades are up to 14" long and 1/3" (10 mm.) across; they are ascending to widely spreading and recurved. Each blade is medium to dark green, glabrous, and often channeled along its length in the middle. The inner side of each leaf sheath is pale white and membranous, while the remaining sides are green. The sheath is hairless throughout and concave at the upper mouth. Each culm terminates in an inflorescence consisting of 1-2 pistillate spikelets and a single staminate spikelet. Each pistillate spikelet consists of a globoid cluster of perigynia that radiate in all directions; each pistillate spikelet spans about 1–1½" across and its appearance is spiky. Each perigynium is about 12-18 mm. long and 4-8 mm. across; it is ellipsoid-lanceoloid in shape, tapering gradually to a long beak at its apex, while its bottom is wedge-shaped. The outer surface of the perigynium can be glabrous or finely pubescent, and there are several longitudinal veins that run along its length. The pistillate scales are about one-half the length of the perigynia; they are more or less ovate and sometimes awned. Each pistillate spikelet is supported by a short stiff peduncle up to 1½" long. At the base of this peduncle, there is a leafy bract that resembles the blades of the leaves. The staminate spikelet is about 1-6 cm. in length; it is narrow and straight. The staminate spikelet is located next to the uppermost pistillate spikelet or a little above it on a short peduncle. The blooming period can occur from late spring to mid-summer. Immature spikelets are light green, but they later become yellowish to dark brown. Within each perigynium, there is an achene that is obovoid and bluntly 3-angled. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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