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Carex capitata Sol.

Brief Summary

Comprehensive Description

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    Capitate sedge is circumboreal [10,11]. It extends south in the western
    cordillera of North America to southern British Columbia and Alberta,
    and sporadically at high elevations to Mexico and east to Montana,
    Wyoming, and Colorado [5,10]. In the east, it occurs in the high
    mountains from Quebec south to New Hampshire [5,18]. It also occurs in
    southern South America [1,7].
    Distribution
    provided by eFloras
    Greenland; Alta., B.C., Man., Nfld. and Labr., N.W.T., Nunavut, Ont., Que., Sask., Yukon; Alaska, Calif., Colo., Mont., Nev., N.H., Wyo.; Mexico; South America; Eurasia.
    Occurrence in North America
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    AK CA CO ID MT NV NH OR UT WA
    WY AB BC NF NT PQ YT MEXICO
    Regional Distribution in the Western United States
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    More info on this topic.

    This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

    2 Cascade Mountains
    4 Sierra Mountains
    8 Northern Rocky Mountains
    9 Middle Rocky Mountains
    11 Southern Rocky Mountains

Morphology

    Comments
    provided by eFloras
    A. Cronquist (1969) placed Carex capitata in Utah; the species is not listed by B. J. Albee et al. (1988), nor have specimens been seen from there.

    In Scandinavia (L. Reinhammar 1999) and Russia (T. V. Egorova 1999), Carex arctogena is distinguished from C. capitata on ecologic and morphologic grounds and also by allozymes at the rank of species. In North America the distinctions are not clear; two taxa can be observed, but there are also numerous specimens of uncertain determination. When making new collections, it is important to evaluate the differences seen elsewhere and to pay close attention to habitat and habit (see below). Separate status at some rank may be appropriate for the taxon “arctogena” in North America too. If C. antarctogena Roivainen from Tierra del Fuego is placed within C. capitata as D. M. Moore and A. O. Chater (1971) and D. M. Moore (1983) have done, then the species occurs at both the northern and the southern extremes of the Americas.

    Carex capitata and C. arctogena differ in habitat (boreal mires versus alpine heaths), habit (mat-forming versus tufted), and morphology of the pistillate scales (much shorter and narrower than perigynia and with narrow hyaline margins versus as long as perigynia and with broad hyaline margins) and perigynia (beak gradually formed and smooth versus beak and may be sparingly serrulate).

    Description
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    More info for the terms: achene, caespitose, culm, graminoid, monoecious

    Capitate sedge is a native, perennial, monoecious graminoid [8,10]. It
    is loosely to densely caespitose [8,11]. Culms are 4 to 14 inches
    (10-35 cm) tall [1,10]. Leaves are one to four per culm [8] and 0.02
    inches (0.5 mm) wide or less [1,14,18]. The first foliage leaves arise
    well above the base of the plant [10]. The inflorescence is a solitary
    terminal spike [10] 0.16 to 0.39 inches (4-10 mm) long [8,14]. The
    achene is 0.06 inches (1.5 mm) long [8]. The perigynia surrounding the
    achene is ovate and 0.08 to 0.12 inches (2-3 mm) long [1,14]. There are
    6 to 25 pergynia per spike [7,9]. Capitate sedge has short creeping
    rhizomes [8] on which the culms are closely spaced [23].
    Description
    provided by eFloras
    Pistillate scales ovate, as long as or much shorter than the perigynia, margins narrowly or broadly hyaline. Perigynia 2–4 × 1.5–1.8 mm, distal margins smooth; beak smooth or sparingly serrulate. 2n = 50.

Diagnostic Description

    Synonym
    provided by eFloras
    Carex arctogena Harry Smith; C. capitata var. arctogena (Harry Smith) Hultén; C. capitata subsp. arctogena (Harry Smith) Böcher

Habitat

    Habitat
    provided by eFloras
    Mires and heaths of the boreal forest with disjunct occurrences southward in the alpine zone of eastern and western mountain ranges, primarily on calcareous substrates; 20–3400m.
    Habitat characteristics
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    Capitate sedge is found in arctic and alpine environments [10] on marshy
    meadows to dry alpine slopes [14,23]. It grows on acidic rocky,
    gravelly [7], sandy [15], or peaty [5] soils.

    In the alpine zone of the eastern Cascade Range in southern interior
    British Columbia capitate sedge is dominant where the soil is strongly
    acid (pH 4.9-5.3) and coarse textured, with loamy sand predominating
    [15]. In the alpine zone of Mt. Baker, Washington, capitate sedge only
    grew in the drier eastern region, on sites with the least snow
    accumulation. However, the soils there remained moist well into summmer
    because of drainage from upslope [3].

    Capitate sedge is found at the following elevations:

    Elevation (feet) Elevation (m)

    AK 0- 3,281 0-1,000 [11]
    CA 6,234-12,900 1,900-3,932 [9,14]
    WA 7,546- 8,038 2,300-2,450 [3]
    BC 2,402- 2,500 732- 762 [16]
    Habitat: Cover Types
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    More info on this topic.

    This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

    207 Red fir
    Habitat: Ecosystem
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    This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

    FRES23 Fir - spruce
    FRES37 Mountain meadows
    FRES44 Alpine
    Habitat: Plant Associations
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    More info on this topic.

    This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

    More info for the term: forest

    K007 Red fir forest
    K052 Alpine meadows and barren
    Key Plant Community Associations
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    Capitate sedge is listed as an indicator and dominant species in the
    following published description of plant communities:

    Vegetation patterns and environment of some alpine plant communities on
    Lakeview Mountain, southern British Columbia [15]

    Species associated with capitate sedge in the alpine zone of the eastern
    Cascade Range in southern interior British Columbia include downy sedge
    (Carex scirpoidea), snow cinquefoil (Potentilla nivea), slender
    crazyweed (Oxytropis monticola), Lyall's goldenweed (Haplopappus
    lyallii), golden fleabane (Erigeron aureus), and fairy-candelabra
    (Androsace septentrionalis) [16].

    Species associated with capitate sedge in the alpine zone of Mt. Baker,
    Washington, in the North Cascade Range include false sedge (Carex
    scirpoidea var. pseudoscirpoidea), alpine fescue (Festuca ovina var.
    brevifolia), and Cascade willow (Salix cascadensis) [3].

General Ecology

    Fire Ecology
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    More info for the term: fire regime

    Since capitate sedge can reproduce vegetatively [8,10], it probably
    sprouts from rhizomes after aerial portions are burned. Where thick
    tufts form, they may protect basal buds from fire-caused damage.

    FIRE REGIMES :
    Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
    species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
    "Find FIRE REGIMES".
    Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    More info on this topic.

    More info for the terms: geophyte, hemicryptophyte

    Hemicryptophyte
    Geophyte
    Immediate Effect of Fire
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    Capitate sedge culms are probably killed by fire during the growing
    season.
    Life Form
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    More info for the term: graminoid

    Graminoid
    Plant Response to Fire
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    More info for the term: tundra

    Vegetation regrowth after fire is very fast in low arctic tundra sedge
    (Carex spp.) dominated communities [22]. Sedges increase in importance
    following fire in these habitats [21].
    Post-fire Regeneration
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    More info for the terms: herb, rhizome, tussock

    Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
    Tussock graminoid
    Regeneration Processes
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    More info for the term: seed

    Capitate sedge sprouts from perennating buds at the base of the culms
    and from rhizomes [10]. It also reproduces by seed [8].
    Successional Status
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    More info on this topic.

    More info for the term: climax

    Facultative Seral Species

    Capitate sedge is dominant on some sites [15]. It is probably a climax
    species in some places, but no specific information was found on its
    successional status.

Cyclicity

    Flowering/Fruiting
    provided by eFloras
    Fruiting Jul–Aug.
    Phenology
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    More info on this topic.

    More info for the terms: fruit, seed

    Capitate sedge blooms from July 1 to August 30 in New England [18] and
    from late June to August in adjacent Canada [5].

    Capitate sedge showed little phenological variation due to aspect in the
    alpine zone of the eastern Cascade Range in southern interior British
    Columbia. Snow had melted from the site by the third week of June in
    1980. Capitate sedge broke dormancy the last week of June and grew
    vegetatively until the first week of July. At that time it began to
    flower, and continued to do so until the second week of August (except
    at one site, where flowering ended August 3). It set fruit until the
    first week of September, and dispersed seed after that time [16].

Benefits

    Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    Capitate sedge is listed as a native plant good for stabilizing or
    restoring disturbed or degraded (including logged or burned) areas. It
    is also recommended for erosion control [9].

Taxonomy

    Common Names
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    capitate sedge
    Taxonomy
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Plants
    The currently accepted scientific name of capitate sedge is Carex
    capitata L. [5,7,10]. It is in the family Cyperaceae. Carex capitata
    f. arctogen (H. Smith) Hulten is a recognized form [12]