Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Carex pensylvanica


SPECIES: Carex pensylvanica
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Cope, Amy B. 1992. Carex pensylvanica. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : CARPES SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : CAPE6 COMMON NAMES : Pennsylvania sedge early sedge Penn sedge yellow sedge TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for Pennsylvania sedge is Carex pensylvanica Lam. [16]. Based on morphological, cytological, ecological, and geographical differentiation, Crinn and Ball [11] divided the Carex pensylvanica complex into two eastern species, Carex lucorum Willdenow ex Link and Carex pensylvanica Lamarck, and one western species with two subspecies, Carex inops Bailey subsp. inops and Carex inops Bailey subsp. heliophila (Mack). Pennsylvania sedge hybridizes with Carex communis Bailey and Carex umbellata Sckuhr [16]. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : No Entry


SPECIES: Carex pensylvanica
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Pennsylvania sedge occurs from the eastern seaboard west to North Dakota and Missouri and from southern Ontario and Quebec south to Tennessee and Virginia [11]. It is also found in eastern Asia [5]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood FRES18 Maple - beech - birch FRES19 Aspen - birch FRES31 Shinnery FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie STATES : CT DE IL IN IA KY MD MA MI MN MO NJ ND OH PA RI TN VT VA WV WI MB ON PQ BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K064 Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass K066 Wheatgrass - needlegrass K067 Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass K073 Northern cordgrass prairie K074 Bluestem prairie K081 Oak savanna K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100 K095 Great Lakes pine forest K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest K099 Maple - basswood forest K100 Oak - hickory forest K101 Elm - ash forest K104 Appalachian oak forest K106 Northern hardwoods K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest K109 Transition between K104 and K106 K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 14 Northern pin oak 15 Red pine 16 Aspen 17 Pin cherry 20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple 21 Eastern white pine 22 White pine - hemlock 23 Eastern hemlock 24 Hemlock - yellow birch 25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch 26 Sugar maple - basswood 32 Red spruce 42 Bur oak 44 Chestnut oak 46 Eastern redcedar 51 White pine - chestnut oak 52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak 53 White oak 55 Northern red oak 62 Silver maple - American elm 64 Sassafras - persimmon 70 Longleaf pine 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 110 Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Pennsylvania sedge is found in upland plains habitats usually dominated by grasses. Consequently, it is of secondary importance in those habitats [32,38]. It is dominant in meadows of the Great Lakes region and common in forest understories [1,8]. In New England, Pennsylvania sedge is often dominant in hardwood forest understories [26,27].


SPECIES: Carex pensylvanica
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Pennsylvania sedge provides cover for migratory waterfowl and sandhill cranes. Ducks use Pennsylvania sedge for nesting material and some cover [7]. Pennsylvania sedge also provides nesting habitat, cover, and dancing grounds for sharptail grouse and prairie chickens [20]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania sedge serves as nesting cover for prairie chicken, sharptail grouse, and mallards. Migratory waterfowl and sandhill cranes also use Pennsylvania sedge habitat for cover [7,20]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Pennsylvania sedge commonly establishes on disturbed sites through vigorous rhizome production. Pennsylvania sedge invades burned and/or clearcut sites, forming pure stands [1]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Pennsylvania sedge increases in response to grazing [15]. Pennsylvania sedge is a strong competitor and slows invasion of trees and shrubs [1]. Deep plowing will break up mats of Pennsylvania sedge without killing it, and assist tree seedling establishment and growth [4]. To reestablish native prairie vegetation and eliminate weedy species from the Hempstead Plains of New York, mowing, controlled burning, and chemical means are being used [27].


SPECIES: Carex pensylvanica
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Pennsylvania sedge is a native, low-growing, grasslike rhizomatous plant [16,37]. The long and narrow leaves are 4 to 18 inches (10-45 cm) in length, approximately the same height as the stems. There are usually two to four cauline leaves [11]. The rhizomes are cordlike and variable in length [3,11]. They are usually found in the top 4 to 5 inches (10-13 cm) of soil [37]. Pennsylvania sedge occurs in clustered, resilient, persistent tufts [16,26]. It is characteristically found in extensive, pure stands [8]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Hemicryptophyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Pennsylvania sedge regenerates primarily by vegetative means [9]. Its long rhizomes allow it to spread out and colonize nearby open areas. The short rhizomes are responsible for tuft or mat formation [5]. Pennsylvania sedge is wind pollinated and reproduces by seed; however, seedlings are rare [9,26]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Pennsylvania sedge is common in forest understories and in open meadows [1,26]. The topography is generally flat or gently rolling with slopes rarely exceeding 10 percent [29,33]. Pennsylvania sedge occurs on well-drained sites, with soils ranging from clay, silty clay loam, sandy loams, to alluvial deposits [18,29,32]. Some soil types are slightly acidic, relatively infertile, and may be of coarse or fine texture [3,18,23]. Pennsylvania sedge occurs in a wide range of climates. It does best in dry deciduous forests and grasslands or other dry, open areas [3]. It is also relatively shade tolerant [11]. In the Appalachian Mountains average annual precipitation is 54 inches (134 cm), but precipitation in the savannas and prairies in the Midwest is lower [2,23]. Below is a listing of elevations at which Pennsylvania sedge occurs [1,2,15,28,35]: feet meters Connecticut 4,300-7,000 1,590-2,593 New York 900-1,700 274 - 518 North Dakota 2,100-2,300 630 - 690 Michigan 910-1,205 275 - 365 West Virginia 1,100-1,200 330 - 690 Pennsylvania sedge is associated with blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) and huckleberries (Gaylussacia spp.) in many habitats [1,26]. In prairies of the Midwest and East, common associates are big and little bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii and Schizachyrium scoparium), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis), and threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia) [38]. In the Lake and New England states, it is dominant in forest understory, and associated with jack pine (Pinus banksiana), oaks (Quercus spp.), pines (Pinus spp.), blueberries and huckleberries (Vaccinium spp. and Gaylussacia spp.), sugar maple (Acer saccarum), and basswood (Tilia americana) [1,12,26]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Pennsylvania sedge is found in seral and climax communities. It is usually dominant in early seral stages, and surrounding shrubs and trees are slow to invade [1]. Pennsylvania sedge is a strong competitor in jack pine community types. It increases on unburned, clearcut sites. This increase results in meadow dominance. These Carex meadows are labeled "regressive succession" because their apparent stability may inhibit further succession. This is unique to lower north Michigan [1]. The Big Woods of Minnesota appear to be expanding at the expense of the prairie. This expansion can be controlled by implementing prescribed fires [12]. Xeric oak forests established from logging and repeated burning of presettlement pine in Michigan appear to be experiencing regressive succession. This is caused by failure of clearcutting and other silvicultural methods to regenerate the oak forest stands. The regressive succession is toward pine or savannalike communities dominated by Pennsylvania sedge [22]. Pennsylvania sedge appears to be more detrimental to black oak reproduction than to white oak [30]. In the literature, there was no indication or implication that Pennsylvania sedge was a problem or needed to be controlled. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Pennsylvania sedge is a cool-season plant, and it makes one of the earliest spring appearances of the Carices [1,11,34]. Growth begins in shoots formed the previous autumn and early winter. Pennsylvania sedge leaves are apparently functional during the winter, summer, and fall [5,12]. Pennsylvania sedge flowers between mid-April and mid-May in southern Ontario and in Iowa [11,23]. On the prairies, flowers of Pennsylvania sedge are easily seen because the other grasses have not yet started to grow [34]. Maximum growth occurs during the cool, early part of the growing season before other prairie grasses begin growth. Pennsylvania sedge completes its life cycle before the onset of summer drought [34]. It is possible that early flowering is an adaption to light requirements [5]. Shoots emerge in the fall [5].


SPECIES: Carex pensylvanica
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : NO-ENTRY POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil Secondary colonizer - onsite seed Secondary colonizer - offsite seed


SPECIES: Carex pensylvanica
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fires typically top-kill Pennsylvania sedge. In the plains, the heat of combustion is confined entirely to the surface, thus not damaging the rhizomes [21]. However, Pennsylvania sedge does not do well after hot fires because its roots and rhizomes do not penetrate deep into the soil [1]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Pennsylvania sedge exploits fire-generated gaps in the litter layer through aggressive clonal propagation [26]. Recovery is usually within 1 or 2 years [34]. Seed germination also occurs but is rare. There is no information regarding fire stimulation of seed germination. In lower north Michigan, Pennsylvania sedge is less dominant on burned sites than on clearcut sites. Fire does not appear to result in "regressive succession" (See Successional Status slot) [1]. Some sources report Pennsylvania sedge as a fire persister [30]. Others report Pennsylvania sedge as a fire decreaser or increaser [8,22]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The information regarding postfire response of Pennsylvania sedge is contradictory. In oak woods, increases in Pennsylvania sedge following burning have been reported; these increases may have been related to an increase in soil pH [15,35]. Pennsylvania sedge is abundant following prescribed fires where trees and shrubs have failed to sprout [10]. In central Minnesota, nominal decreases in Pennsylvania sedge were reported [22]. At a site in North dakota, there were no significant increases or decreases in comparison to unburned stands [15]. The Research Paper by Bowles and others 2007 provides information on postfire responses of several plant species, including Pennsylvania sedge, that was not available when this species review was originally written. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : In restoration of prairie vegetation, burning every 3 to 5 years discourages woody vegetation and encourages grasses and forbs, including Pennsylvania sedge. Mid to late summer fires appear to benefit cool season graminoids the most. Spring fires do not benefit Pennsylvania sedge and can be more harmful to wildlife and more explosive than summer fires [7].

References for species: Carex pensylvanica

1. Abrams, Marc D.; Dickmann, Donald I. 1982. Early revegetation of clear-cut and burned jack pine sites in northern lower Michigan. Canadian Journal of Botany. 60: 946-954. [7238]
2. Adams, Harold S.; Stephenson, Steven L. 1989. Old-growth red spruce communities in the mid-Appalachians. Vegetatio. 85: 45-56. [11409]
3. Archambault, Louis; Barnes, Burton V.; Witter, John A. 1989. Ecological species groups of oak ecosystems of southeastern Michigan. Forest Science. 35(4): 1058-1074. [9768]
4. Ball, P. W. 1990. Some aspects of the phytogeography of Carex. Canadian Journal of Botany. 68: 1462-1472. [15742]
5. Bernard, John M. 1990. Life history and vegetative reproduction in Carex. Canadian Journal of Botany. 68(7): 1441-1448. [14529]
6. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]
7. Blewett, Thomas. 1978. Prairie and savanna restoration in the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. In: Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Landers, Roger Q., Jr., eds. Proceedings, 5th Midwest prairie conference; 1976 August 22-24; Ames, IA. Ames, IA: Iowa State University: 154-157. [3370]
8. Buell, Murray F.; Cantlon, John E. 1953. Effects of prescribed burning on ground cover in the New Jersey pine region. Ecology. 34: 520-528. [9262]
9. Chapman, Rachel Ross; Crow, Garrett E. 1981. Application of Raunkiaer's life form system to plant species survival after fire. Torrey Botanical Club. 108(4): 472-478. [7432]
10. Collins, Scott L.; Good, Ralph E. 1986. Canopy-ground layer relationships of oak-pine forests in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The American Midland Naturalist. 117(2): 280-288. [8636]
11. Crins, William J.; Ball, Peter W. 1983. The taxonomy of the Carex pensylvanica complex (Cyperaceae) in North America. Canadian Journal of Botany. 61: 1692-1717. [18735]
12. Daubenmire, Rexford F. 1936. The "big woods" of Minnesota: its structure, and relation to climate, fire, and soils. Ecological Monographs. 6(2): 233-268. [2697]
13. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
14. Ehrenreich, John H.; Aikman, John M. 1963. An ecological study of the effect on certain management practices on native prairie in Iowa. Ecological Monographs. 33(2): 113-130. [9]
15. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
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17. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]
18. Goetz, Harold. 1969. Composition and yields of native grassland sites fertilized at different rates of nitrogen. Journal of Range Management. 22(6): 384-390. [1029]
19. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603]
20. Hamerstrom, F. N., Jr. 1939. A study of Wisconsin prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse. Wilson Bulletin. 51(2): 105-120. [15808]
21. Hensel, R. L. 1923. Effect of burning on vegetation in Kansas pastures. Journal of Agricultural Research. 23(8): 631-644. [1131]
22. Johnson, Paul S. 1992. Oak overstory/reproduction relations in two xeric ecosystems in Michigan. Forest Ecology and Management. 48: 233-248. [18157]
23. Kucera, Clair L. 1952. An ecological study of a hardwood forest area in central Iowa. Ecological Monographs. 22(4): 283-299. [254]
24. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
25. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496]
26. Matlack, G. R.; Good, R. E. 1989. Plant-scale pattern among herbs and shrubs of a fire-dominated coastal plain forest. Vegetatio. 82: 95-103. [9829]
27. Neidich-Ryder, Carole; Ryder, Richard D. 1990. Restoration of eastern prairie underway. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(2): 100-101. [14155]
28. MacLean, David A. 1980. Vulnerability of fir-spruce stands during uncontrolled spruce budworm outbreaks: a review and discussion. Forestry Chronicle. 56: 213-221. [14609]
29. Niering, William A.; Dreyer, Glenn D. 1989. Effects of prescribed burning on Andropogon scoparius in postagricultural grasslands in Connecticut. The American Midland Naturalist. 122: 88-102. [8768]
30. Potter, Loren D.; Moir, D. Ross. 1961. Phytosociological study of burned deciduous woods, Turtle Mountains North Dakota. Ecology. 42(3): 468-480. [10191]
31. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
32. Redmann, Robert E. 1975. Production ecology of grassland plant communities in western North Dakota. Ecological Monographs. 45: 83-106. [4601]
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34. Steiger, T. L. 1930. Structure of prairie vegetation. Ecology. 11(1): 170-217. [3777]
35. Swan, Frederick R., Jr. 1970. Post-fire response of four plant communities in south-central New York state. Ecology. 51(6): 1074-1082. [3446]
36. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573]
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38. Weaver, J. E. 1958. Summary and interpretation of underground development in natural grassland communities. Ecological Monographs. 28(1): 55-78. [297]