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:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name for Pennsylvania sedge
is Carex pensylvanica Lam. .
Based on morphological, cytological, ecological, and geographical
differentiation, Crinn and Ball  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.
Pennsylvania sedge hybridizes with Carex communis Bailey and Carex umbellata
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
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 . It is also found in eastern Asia .
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
FRES38 Plains grasslands
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
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 :
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
It is dominant in meadows of the Great Lakes region and common in forest
In New England, Pennsylvania sedge is often dominant in hardwood forest
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 . Pennsylvania
sedge also provides nesting habitat, cover, and dancing grounds for
sharptail grouse and prairie chickens .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
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 .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Pennsylvania sedge increases in response to grazing .
Pennsylvania sedge is a strong competitor and slows invasion of trees and
shrubs . Deep plowing will break up mats of Pennsylvania sedge without
killing it, and assist tree seedling establishment and growth .
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 .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
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 . 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 .
Pennsylvania sedge occurs in clustered, resilient, persistent tufts [16,26].
It is characteristically found in extensive, pure stands .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Pennsylvania sedge regenerates primarily by vegetative means . Its long
rhizomes allow it to spread out and colonize nearby open areas. The
short rhizomes are responsible for tuft or mat formation .
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 . It is
also relatively shade tolerant . 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
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) . 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 .
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 .
The Big Woods of Minnesota appear to be expanding at the expense of the
prairie. This expansion can be controlled by implementing prescribed
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 . Pennsylvania sedge appears to be more
detrimental to black oak reproduction than to white oak .
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 .
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 . It is possible that
early flowering is an adaption to light requirements .
Shoots emerge in the fall .
SPECIES: Carex pensylvanica
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
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 . However, Pennsylvania sedge does not do well after hot fires
because its roots and rhizomes do not penetrate deep into the soil .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Pennsylvania sedge exploits fire-generated gaps in the litter layer through
aggressive clonal propagation . Recovery is usually within 1 or 2
years . 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) . Some sources report
Pennsylvania sedge as a fire persister . 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 . In
central Minnesota, nominal decreases in Pennsylvania sedge were reported .
At a site in North dakota, there were no significant increases or
decreases in comparison to unburned stands .
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 .
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. 
2. Adams, Harold S.; Stephenson, Steven L. 1989. Old-growth red spruce communities in the mid-Appalachians. Vegetatio. 85: 45-56. 
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. 
4. Ball, P. W. 1990. Some aspects of the phytogeography of Carex. Canadian Journal of Botany. 68: 1462-1472. 
5. Bernard, John M. 1990. Life history and vegetative reproduction in Carex. Canadian Journal of Botany. 68(7): 1441-1448. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
15. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. 
16. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]. Portland, OR: Dioscorides Press. 1632 p. (Dudley, Theodore R., gen. ed.; Biosystematics, Floristic & Phylogeny Series; vol. 2) 
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. 
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. 
19. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. 
20. Hamerstrom, F. N., Jr. 1939. A study of Wisconsin prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse. Wilson Bulletin. 51(2): 105-120. 
21. Hensel, R. L. 1923. Effect of burning on vegetation in Kansas pastures. Journal of Agricultural Research. 23(8): 631-644. 
22. Johnson, Paul S. 1992. Oak overstory/reproduction relations in two xeric ecosystems in Michigan. Forest Ecology and Management. 48: 233-248. 
23. Kucera, Clair L. 1952. An ecological study of a hardwood forest area in central Iowa. Ecological Monographs. 22(4): 283-299. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
27. Neidich-Ryder, Carole; Ryder, Richard D. 1990. Restoration of eastern prairie underway. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(2): 100-101. 
28. MacLean, David A. 1980. Vulnerability of fir-spruce stands during uncontrolled spruce budworm outbreaks: a review and discussion. Forestry Chronicle. 56: 213-221. 
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. 
30. Potter, Loren D.; Moir, D. Ross. 1961. Phytosociological study of burned deciduous woods, Turtle Mountains North Dakota. Ecology. 42(3): 468-480. 
31. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. 
32. Redmann, Robert E. 1975. Production ecology of grassland plant communities in western North Dakota. Ecological Monographs. 45: 83-106. 
33. Seymour, Frank Conkling. 1982. The flora of New England. 2d ed. Phytologia Memoirs 5. Plainfield, NJ: Harold N. Moldenke and Alma L. Moldenke. 611 p. 
34. Steiger, T. L. 1930. Structure of prairie vegetation. Ecology. 11(1): 170-217. 
35. Swan, Frederick R., Jr. 1970. Post-fire response of four plant communities in south-central New York state. Ecology. 51(6): 1074-1082. 
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. 
37. Wanek, W. J.; Burgess, R. L. 1965. Floristic composition of the sand prairies of southeastern North Dakota. Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Sciences. 9: 26-40. 
38. Weaver, J. E. 1958. Summary and interpretation of underground development in natural grassland communities. Ecological Monographs. 28(1): 55-78. 
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