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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Poor Sedge - Carex magellanica
Other Names:  Carex paupercula

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4
C-value: 10

Agency Status


External Links

General Description
Poor Sedge is a grass-like perennial that grows in small clusters with flowering stems that are 15-40 cm tall, arising from short or long rhizomes. Roots have a yellowish-brown fuzzy covering. Stems are conspicuously covered at the base with the dried leaves from the previous year. The leaves are mostly flat, 2-4 mm wide, and on the lower half of the stem. The inflorescence consists of a narrow terminal spike of male flowers and usually 2-3 mainly female spikes, the lower of which are nodding on long stalks. The terminal spike is 4-12 mm long and 2-4 mm wide; the lower spikes are 4-22 mm long and 4-8 mm wide, and often have a few male flowers at the base. The bract is slightly longer than the terminal spike. Scales are light or dark brown, often with a greenish midvein. The perigynia are pale green, glabrous, oval in outline, and 2-3 mm long. Each perigynium has 3 stigmas and an achene that is 3-sided.

Fruit mature in July-August.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Carex paupercula occurs with C. limonsa in peatland habitat, and the two can be confused. It differs from the latter in having leaves at the base of the plant and male flowers at the base of spikes.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Circumboreal south to UT, CO, OH, NY and S. America (Lesica et al. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 98

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Nutrient-poor fens and bog-like microsites often with Sphanum moss in the montane zone.

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Fernald, M.L. 1906. The variations of Carex paupercula. Rhodora 8: 73-77.
    • Hermann, F. J. 1970. Manual of the Carices of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Basin. Agricultural Handbook No. 374. USDA Forest Service. 397 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
    • Slack, N. G., D.H. Vitt, and D.G. Horton. 1980. Vegetation gradients of minerotrophically rich fens in western Alberta. Canadian Journal of Botany 58: 330-350.
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Citation for data on this website:
Poor Sedge — Carex magellanica.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from