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Description

This perennial sedge forms a loose tuft of leafy culms about 4-18" tall. The culms are light green, 3-angled, glabrous, and stiff. The alternate leaves occur mostly along the lower half of each culm; their blades are ascending to widely arching. The leaf blades are 4-12" long and 1.5-4.0 mm. across; they are light green, glabrous, and longitudinally furrowed. The leaf sheaths are light green to membranous, glabrous, and relatively tight. Each fertile culm terminates in an inflorescence consisting of a terminal staminate (male) spikelet and 2-4 pistillate (female) spikelets. However, sometimes the staminate spikelet is absent, particularly on shorter culms. On rare occasions, the terminal spikelet may be gynecandrous with a few perigynia above the staminate florets. The narrow staminate spikelet is up to ½" (12 mm.) long; it soon turns brown after flowering. The staminate spikelet is either sessile or it has a short peduncle. The pistillate spikelets are ¼–¾" (6-20 mm.) long and cylindrical in shape; each of these spikelets has 4-16 perigynia and their scales. On a typical pistillate spikelet, the perigynia are more crowded toward its apex than toward its bottom. The perigynia are 2.5-3.0 mm. long and about 2.0 mm. across; they are obovoid in shape and glabrous. The perigynia are beakless toward their tops and stipe-like toward their bottoms; along their sides they have faint longitudinal veins. Immature perigynia are pale green, while mature perigynia are golden yellow or orange. However, mature perigynia persist on their spikelets for only a short period of time. The pistillate scales are about 2.0 mm. long and ovate in shape; their tips are usually acute to cuspidate (appearing short-awned). Initially, these scales have green central veins and membranous margins, but they soon become brownish and sometimes detach from their spikelets before the perigynia are mature. The pistillate spikelets have short stiff peduncles; they are normally erect to ascending. Leafy bracts occur at the bases of these spikelets. The lower bracts are rather large and usually overtop the inflorescence, while the upper bracts are significantly shorter. These bracts are similar in appearance to the leaves. The blooming period occurs during late spring, lasting about 1-2 weeks. The florets are cross-pollinated by the wind. Afterwards, the mature perigynia become detached from their spikelets; each perigynium contains a single achene. The achenes are about 1.5 mm. long and a little less across; they are broadly lenticular (lentil-like) in shape and somewhat flattened. The root system is fibrous and short-rhizomatous.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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