Species Factsheets

Carex polymorpha

Variable Sedge

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State Status: Pennsylvania Endangered (PE)
PBS Status: Pennsylvania Threatened (PT)
Federal Status:

Global Rank: G3 rank interpretation
State Rank: S2

Did You Know?

This species can be distinguished by its long beak on the perigynium, a sac that surrounds the achene.

Carex polymorpha


Variable sedge (Carex polymorpha) is an herbaceous perennial with grass-like leaves. The flowering stalk is usually stiffly erect, 30-50cm tall, and contains a cluster of male flowers at the top and one to three spikes of female flowers below. Flowering stems first appear in May and remain intact through the summer with the fruits persisting in place.

Rank Justification

Imperiled in the nation or state because of rarity due to very restricted range, very few populations (often 20 or fewer), steep declines, or other factors making it very vulnerable to extirpation from the nation or state.


Survey Dates

Fruits June - early August




According to a study of variable sedge habitat at Nescopeck State Park by Jamie Horvath, Morris Arboretum intern 2001–2002, the sedge occurs in sites where the forest is dominated by white oak or red maple and the canopy is 70–90 percent closed. Because most populations are located close to streams, soil moisture is assumed to be an important factor.

Conservation Status Map


Map Legend

NatureServe. 2017. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available https://explorer.natureserve.org.


  • NatureServe. 2018. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available at https://www.natureserve.org/explorer
  • Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. 2018.
  • Rhoads, A.F. and W.M. Klein, Jr. 1993. The Vascular Flora of Pennsylvania. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rhoads, A.F. and T.A. Block.
  • 2007. The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual. 2nd edition. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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