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Carex capillaris L.

Photo: Carex capillaris

Capillary Sedge

Habitat: Damp, springy, or mossy calcareous woods, thickets, shores, and wooded swamps. [Rocky summits and outcrops (non-forested, upland); Non-tidal rivershore (non-forested, seasonally wet); Forested wetland; Open wetland, not coastal nor rivershore (non-forested, wetland)]

Range: Arctic/alpine regions of Canada south to New England, and west across the northern U.S. to Saskatchewan.

Photo: Carex capillaris

Aids to Identification: Identification of species of the Carex genus is usually difficult and dependent upon rather technical characters. C. capillaris is the sole species in our region in the section Capillares. It is identified by its densely tufted growth, cluster of basal leaves, spreading pistillate spikes, and its 2-ribbed, short-beaked, elliptic perigynia, 2.4-3.3mm long.

Ecological characteristics: In Maine this sedge is known to occur in a variety of calcium-rich, wet habitats, including ledges, talus slopes, ditches, cedar swamps, and bogs.

Phenology: Fruits late June - August.

Photo: Carex capillaris

Family: Cyperaceae

Synonyms: Formerly included two varieties: C. capillaris var. capillaris and C. capillaris var. major Blytt; those varieities no longer considered separate taxa.

Known Distribution in Maine: This rare plant has been documented from a total of 13 town(s) in the following county(ies): Aroostook, Oxford, Piscataquis, Somerset.

Dates of documented observations are: 1871, 1898, 1901, 1940, 1985 (2), 1986, 1987 (2), 1992, 2001 (3), 2002

Reason(s) for rarity: At southern limit of range; calcareaous habitat is naturally scarce.

Conservation considerations: Unknown. Usually grows in semi-open areas, not under dense forest cover.