CPC Plant Profile: Barratt's Sedge
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Plant Profile

Barratt's Sedge (Carex barrattii)

This shot shows the flower/seed-heads and leaves of Barratt's sedge. Photo Credit: Copyright Larry E. Morse
  • Global Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Cyperaceae
  • State: PA, TN, VA, AL, CT, DE, GA, MD, NC, NJ, NY

Barratts sedge is uncommon throughout most of its range. It is not federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, but is ranked as threatened or endangered in a number of states in which it is found. One state where this species is doing well is New Jersey. In 1978 and 1979, Congress and the State of New Jersey established the Pinelands National Reserve and the Pinelands Commission. The Pinelands National Reserve occupies 22% of New Jersey's land area, with 1.1 million acres of a mix of public and private land. Today, with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, which is overseen by the Pinelands Commission, the region is protected and managed to maintain its unique ecology while permitting compatible development. The protection of the Pine Barrens has saved many of the populations in New Jersey, while other states continue to lose large proportions of their populations to development. This species produces pale bluish-green leaves that grow from tufts. Its flowers, which are rarely produced, are composed of interesting but difficult-to-see darkish purple flower spikes. This species can be distinguished from a similar and closely related species Carex limosa using a few characteristics. C. limosa is smaller than C. barrattii, and its flowers have scales that completely conceal the perigynia, while the scales of C. barrattii do not quite cover the peringynia. In addition, C. limosa reproduces vegetatively by stolons (above ground) while C. barrattii reproduces vegetatively by underground rhizomes (Sharp 2001).

Conservation Actions:
Participating Institutions
Taxon Carex barrattii
Authority Schwein. & Torr.
Family Cyperaceae
CPC Number 764
ITIS 39518
Common Names Barratt's Sedge
Associated Scientific Names Carex jacca | Carex littoralis | Carex variegata | Olamblis barrattii
Distribution Currently, most populations are located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens with additional sites in Maryland and Delaware. Occurrences have been reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Connecticut, although sighting are very rare and dated (NatureServe 2016).
State Rank
State State Rank
Alabama S1?
Connecticut S1
Delaware S3
Georgia SU
Maryland S3
North Carolina SH
New Jersey S4
New York S1
Pennsylvania SX
Tennessee S2
Virginia S2

Prime conditions for this species are wetland areas with open sun and acidic soils (pH less than 5) along the Mid-Atlantic coastal plain. Populations have historically been found in coastal pine or oak barrens, bogs, and swamps, but remaining populations are found primarily in pine barrens (Sharp 2001, Denemore 1987). This species was discovered in South Carolina in 1993 in a rather remarkable plant community that appears relictual from much colder times in the region (Hill and Horn 1997).

Plants observed growing in clonal populations in roadside ditches in Burlington County NJ, in association with Quercus illicifolia and Q. marilandica, Acer rubrum, Rhododendron viscosum, Clethra alnifolia and various Vaccinium sp. (NYBG 2014)

Ecological Relationships

This species is dependent upon disturbances, such as fire and clearing. C. barrattii reaches its greatest abundance in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a habitat that is strongly fire-dependent. The flowers of Carex barrattii, are unisexual and lack a perianth, as do the flowers of all species of Carex. (Sharp 2001). Flowers of plants in the genus Carex are wind-pollinated (anemophilous) (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Reproduction is often clonal. While specific observations have not been published, it is likely that seed is dispersed by tree sparrows, swamp sparrows, grouse, or seed-eating songbirds (Sharp 2001).

Woody associates include Acer rubrum, Aronioa melanocarpa, Chamaedaphne calyculata, Clethra alnifolia, Sphagnum sp., Spirea tomentosa and Vaccinium coymbosum. Herbaceous associates include Carex stricta, Carex vesicaria, and Scirpus cyperinus (Sharp 2001).


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