bristly sedge

(Carex comosa)

Conservation Status
bristly sedge
Photo by Luciearl
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

     
  NatureServe

NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
Wetland Indicator Status
     
  Great Plains

OBL - Obligate wetland

     
  Midwest

OBL - Obligate wetland

     
  Northcentral & Northeast

OBL - Obligate wetland

     
     
           
 
Description
 
 

Bristly sedge is a large, broad-leaved, true sedge. It occurs in the eastern United States from Maine to Florida west to Minnesota and Louisiana, in the west from Washington to California, in adjacent Canadian provinces, and in Mexico. It is found in swamps, marshes, wet thickets, and depressions in wet meadows; on the shores of ponds and lakes; and on floating mats of vegetation. It is often emergent in shallow water, near or even well away from the shore. It sometimes roots on floating logs.

Bristly sedge is an erect, perennial sedge that rises in a loose or dense clump from a short, horizontal, underground stem (rhizome) and fibrous roots.

Both sterile (vegetative) and fertile (flowering) stems (culms) are produced, more of the former than the latter. The vegetative culms are well-developed and have several leaves. Flowering culms are 20 to 47 (50 to 120 cm) tall. They are erect, unbranched, leafy, and three-sided with sharp edges. They are hairless, rough to the touch near the top, and tinged brownish at the base.

Stem leaves are alternate and widely spreading to ascending. They appear along the entire length of the culm below the inflorescence. All of the leaves, even at the base, have well-developed blades. The leaf blade is hairless, light green to medium green, 8 to 20 (20 to 50 cm) long, and 316 to (5 to 16 mm) wide. It is usually W-shaped in cross section, sometimes flat. The sheath is hairless, deeply concave at the tip, light green and veined on the outer side, papery (membranous) on the inner side. The sheath of the lowermost leaves is pale brown at the base. The sheath does not break into horizontal ladder-like fibers as it ages, and there is no red or purple coloration at the base. The sheaths of the previous season persist and are noticeable at the base of the plant. The ligule is V-shaped and longer than wide.

The inflorescence is a 1½ to 13¾ (4 to 35 cm) long, loosely spaced arrangement of spikes. There is a single male (staminate) spike at the tip of the stem and 2 to 6 female (pistillate) spikes near the top of the stem. The inflorescence is subtended by a single, 6 to 33½ (15 to 85 cm) long, inflorescence leaf (bract). The bract is much longer than the inflorescence.

The staminate spike is cylindrical and 1 to 3 (25 to 80 mm) long. It is held erect on a slender stalk (peduncle) that is up to (10 mm) long. Each male flower is subtended by a single modified leaf (scale). The staminate scale is lance-shaped to linear, to (4 to 9 mm) long, and tapered to a rough (scabrous), bristle-like tip (awn). It is reddish-brown and has a green or straw-colored midrib.

The pistillate spikes are cylindrical, to 3 (15 to 75 mm) long, and ½ to ¾ (12 to 18 mm) wide. They are on up to 1 long or longer peduncles. The upper spikes are spreading, the lower ones drooping. Each spike has numerous fruit capsules (achenes), and each achene has a sac-like covering (perigynium). At the base of each perigynia is a single scale. The pistillate scale is lance-shaped, to ½ (2.8 to 12 mm) long, 164 to 132 (0.4 to 1.0 mm) wide, and narrowed with concave sides (acuminate) toward the tip. It is shorter than the perigynium. The tip tapers to a long scabrous awn.

The perigynia are crowded and are spreading to bent backwards (reflexed) when mature. Each perigynium is narrowly egg-shaped. leathery, 316 to (4.8 to 8.7 mm) long, and 132 to 116(1.1 to 1.8 mm) wide. It entirely and tightly envelopes the achene at maturity. It is abruptly contracted into a long beak at the tip. It has 14 to 22 distinct, closely-spaced veins that converge about half way up the beak. The beak is tube-shaped, 116to (2 to 4 mm) long, and has two papery teeth at the tip. The teeth are 132to (2 to 3 mm) long and are distinctly curved outward.

The achene is dry, pale brown, 116 (1.7 to 2.0 mm) long, and triangular in cross section. It matures in late June to mid-September.

 
     
 

Height

 
 

20 to 47 (50 to 120 cm)

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Swamps, marshes, wet thickets, depressions in wet meadows, shores of ponds and lakes, floating mats of vegetation, and floating logs. Often emergent in shallow water.

 
     
 
Phenology
 
 

Fruiting

 
  April to June  
 

 

 
 

Maturing

 
 

Late June to mid-September

 
     
 
Use
 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30, 84.

 
  8/14/2021      
         
 

Nativity

 
 

Native

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Liliopsida (monocots)  
 

Order

Poales (grasses, sedges, cattails, and allies)  
 

Family

Cyperaceae (sedge)  
  Subfamily Cyperoideae  
  Tribe Cariceae  
 

Genus

Carex (true sedges)  
  Subgenus Carex  
  Section Vesicariae  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

bottle-brush sedge

bristly sedge

longhair sedge

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Achene

A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded seed capsule, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed entirely from the wall of the superior ovary, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.

 

Ascending

Growing upward at an angle or curving upward from the base.

 

Awn

A stiff, bristle-like appendage at the tip of the glume, lemma, or palea of grass florets.

 

Bract

Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.

 

Culm

The hollow or pithy stem of a grass, sedge, or rush.

 

Ligule

In grasses and sedges, a membranous appendage at the junction of the leaf and the leaf sheath, sometimes no more than a fringe of hairs. In flowering plants, the flat, strap-shaped, petal-like portion of the corolla of a ray floret.

 

Peduncle

In angiosperms, the stalk of a single flower or a flower cluster; in club mosses, the stalk of a strobilus or a group of strobili.

 

Perigynium

In Carex and other closely related sedges, a sac-like structure that surrounds the pistillate flower and later encloses the achene. Plural: perigynia.

 

Pistillate

Referring to a flower that has a female reproductive organ (pistil) but does not have male reproductive organs (stamens).

 

Rhizome

A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.

 

Scale

On plants, a small, usually flat and thin, modified leaf resembling the scale of a fish. In sedges, a dry, reduced bract at the base of the perianth. On animals, a small rigid plate growing out of an animal’s skin to provide protection. On butterflies and moths, a plate on the surface of the wing providing coloration.

 

Sheath

The lower part of the leaf that surrounds the stem.

 

Spreading

Extending nearly horizontal.

 

Staminate

Referring to a flower that has a male reproductive organs (stamens) but does not have a female reproductive organ (pistil).

 
 
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Luciearl

 
 

Growing on shore of Pine Song Lake

 
    bristly sedge   bristly sedge  
           
 
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  Luciearl
7/1/2021

Location: Fairview Twp, Cass County

Growing on shore of Pine Song Lake

bristly sedge  
           
 
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Created: 8/24/2021

Last Updated:

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