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Plant Profile

Variable Sedge (Carex polymorpha)

Copyright © 2017 Donald Cameron Photo Credit: Donald Cameron
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Cyperaceae
  • State: CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, WV
  • Nature Serve ID: 128460
  • Lifeform: Graminoid
  • Date Inducted in National Collection:

Carex polymorpha is a rare, grass-like sedge that is grows to be about 7-24 inches tall. It is perennial and spreads vegetatively via rhizomes (long roots). Like many grasses, it produces its flowers on a long skinny spike and it typically has 2-15 spikes per flowering stem. It is easily confused with C. vaginata, but can be distinguished by the color of the sheath on lower leaves, brown on C. polymorphia and more purple on C. vaginata.  (NatureServe, 2017; New England Wildflower Society, 2017).   Carex polymorphia is of conservation concern for several reasons. First, it is only found in the Northeast USA with probably about 45 populations in total. Within that range, it is restricted to acidic, sandy soils on the edges of forests or woodlands that are near wetlands or that regularly flood. It is likely or possibly extirpated from three of the 12 states in which was historically known to occur, and is declining in most of the places where it is still extant. Habitat destruction combined with its very specific habitat preferences are likely the reasons for its decline. (NatureServe, 2017; New England Wildflower Society, 2017; Standley and Dudley, 1991).

Where is Variable Sedge (Carex polymorpha) located in the wild?

States & Provinces:

Variable Sedge can be found in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia

Which CPC Partners conserve Variable Sedge (Carex polymorpha)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

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Taxon Carex polymorpha
Authority Muhl.
Family Cyperaceae
CPC Number 784
ITIS 39765
Duration Perennial
Common Names Variable Sedge
Associated Scientific Names Carex polymorpha | Carex halseyana | Carex halseyi | Carex striata | Loxotrema halseyana
State Rank
State State Rank
Connecticut S1
Delaware SX
Massachusetts S2
Maryland SH
Maine S1
New Hampshire S1
New Jersey S1
New York SX
Pennsylvania S2
Rhode Island S1
Virginia S2
West Virginia S1
Ecological Relationships


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