brownish sedge

(Carex brunnescens)


Brownish sedge is a perennial, medium sized, true sedge. It is native, common, and widespread throughout the northern forested regions of every continent in the northern hemisphere (circumboreal). It is common in Minnesota. There are two generally recognized subspecies, ssp. sphaerostachya and ssp. brunnescens. The former is common in Minnesota, and it was once thought to be the only subspecies occurring in the state. It is now estimated that 10% to 20% of the plants in the state can be classified as ssp. brunnescens based on leaf width.

Brownish sedge is found in a variety of wet, moist, and temporarily dry habitats. It grows in both shaded and exposed areas. It is found in forested peatlands; swampy or boggy areas (mires) with a thin layer of peat; thickets; moderately moist mixed forests; moist, shallow, natural or man-made channels (swales) in woodlands; and moist areas in rock outcrops.

brownish sedge
Photo by Luciearl

Brownish sedge forms small, very dense clumps. Within the tuft, each individual plant has a single, unbranched, flowering stem with a cluster of leaves at the base.

The flowering stem (culm) is three-angled and 6 to 36 (15 to 90 cm) tall. It is usually longer than the leaves. The leaves are restricted to the lower half of the culm.

The leaf blade is hairless and usually 4 to 10 (10 to 25 cm) long and 132 to (1.0 to 2.5 mm) wide, and hairless.

The inflorescence at the end of the culm is unbranched and is usually to 2 (1.5 to 5.0 cm) long. It ihas 5 to 10 groups of flowers (spikes). The two spikes at the tip are closely spaced, the remaining spikes are widely separated. Each spike is stalkless and is subtended by a single modified leaf (bract). The lowest bract is stiff, bristle-like, and very long, but it is not longer than the inflorescence.

Each spike is globe-shaped or slightly longer than wide and up to ¼ (7 mm) long. It usually has 5 to 10 female (pistillate) flowers, but it may have up to 15 or even more. The terminal spike has both male and female flowers, with pistillate (female) flowers at the tip and staminate (male) flowers at the base. It may be club-shaped or ellipse shaped. The staminate base that is not quite as long as the pistillate portion above.

Each pistillate flower is entirely enclosed by a sac-like bract (perigynium) and subtended by a single scale. The scale is translucent (hyaline) white on the sides and green with 3 veins in the center. The perigynium is green or brown, 116 to (2.0 to 2.5 mm) long, and 132 to 116 (0.8 to 1.5 mm) wide. It often becomes dark brown with old age.

The fruit is a dry, one-seeded capsule (achene). It is much smaller than the perigynium. It matures from early June to early August.


Distribution Map



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



Plantae (green algae and land plants)


Viridiplantae (green plants)


Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)


Embryophyta (land plants)


Tracheophyta (vascular plants)


Spermatophytina (seed plants)


Liliopsida (monocots)


Poales (grasses, sedges, cattails, and allies)


Cyperaceae (sedges)






Carex (true sedges)






This species was formerly treated as a subspecies of Carex canescens (hoary sedge).


Subordinate Taxa

Four subspecies have been described, but only two are widely recognized. The characteristics used to distinguish ssp. alaskana and ssp. pacifica gradually transition to (grade into) those of ssp. brunnescens.

brownish sedge (Carex brunnescens ssp. alaskana)

brownish sedge (Carex brunnescens ssp. brunnescens)

brownish sedge (Carex brunnescens ssp. pacifica)

round-spike brownish sedge (Carex brunnescens ssp. sphaerostachya)



Carex canescens ssp. brunnescens

Carex canescens var. brunnescens

Carex curta var. brunnescens

Carex persoonii

Facolos brunnescens

Vignea brunnescens


Common Names

brown sedge

brownish sedge

green bog sedge












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.



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



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



The arrangement of an unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalkless flowers that mature from the base toward the tip. In Cyperaceae, it also denotes a collection of one or a group of stalkless flowers, each subtended by scales, on a single inflorescence axis.



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brownish sedge  

brownish sedge

Found several clumps of this in a nearby woodland setting. Quite pretty when looking at it closely. The tiny yellow seeds almost seemed to sparkle. Photos











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Location: Lake Shore

Found several clumps of this in a nearby woodland setting. Quite pretty when looking at it closely. The tiny yellow seeds almost seemed to sparkle.

brownish sedge Sightings






Created: 6/19/2024

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