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Golden Sedge (Carex lutea)

Picture of Golden Sedge

Status:  Endangered

Description:  Golden sedge is a perennial member of the sedge family (Cyperaceae) known only from North Carolina.  Fertile culms (stems) may reach one meter or more in height.  The yellowish green leaves are grass-like, with those of the culm mostly basal and up to 28 centimeters (cm) in length, while those of the vegetative shoots reach a length of 65 cm.  Fertile culms produce two to four flowering spikes (multiple flowering structure with flowers attached to the stem), with the terminal spike being male and the one to three (usually two) lateral spikes being female.  Lateral spikes are subtended by leaf-like bracts (a much-reduced leaf).  The male spike is about 2 to 4 cm long, 1.5 to 2.5 millimeters (mm) wide, with a peduncle (stalk) about 1 to 6 cm long.  Female spikes are round to elliptic, about 1.0 to 1.5 cm long and 1 cm wide.  The upper female spike is sessile (not stalked; sitting), while lower female spikes, if present, have peduncles typically 0.5 to 4.5 cm long.  When two to three female spikes are present, each is separated from the next, along the culm, by 4.5 to 18 cm.  The inflated perigynia (sac which encloses the ovary) are bright yellow at flowering and about 4 to 5 mm long.  The perigynia are out-curved and spreading, with the lowermost in a spike strongly reflexed (turned downward).  Golden sedge is most readily identified from mid-April to mid-June during flowering and fruiting.  It is distinguished from other Carex species that occur in the same habitat by its bright yellow color (particularly the female spikes), by its height and slenderness, and especially by the out-curved crowded perigynia, the lowermost of which are reflexed.

Habitat:  Golden sedge grows in sandy soils overlying coquina limestone deposits, where the soil pH is unusually high for this region, typically between 5.5 and 7.2.  Soils supporting the species are very wet to periodically shallowly inundated.  The species prefers the ecotone (narrow transition zone between two diverse ecological communities) between the pine savanna and adjacent wet hardwood or hardwood/conifer forest.  Most plants occur in the partially shaded savanna/swamp where occasional to frequent fires favor an herbaceous ground layer and suppress shrub dominance. Other species with which this sedge grows include tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), red maple (Acer rubrum var. trilobum), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera var. cerifera), colic root (Aletris farinosa), and several species of beakrush (Rhynchospora spp.).  At most sites, golden sedge shares its habitat with Cooley's meadowrue (Thalictrum cooleyi), another federally endangered plant species, and with Thorne's beakrush (Rhynchospora thornei), a species of concern to us.

Distribution and Range:  All known populations of golden sedge occur in the northeast Cape Fear River watershed in Pender and Onslow counties, North Carolina.

Listing:  Golden Sedge was listed as Endangered on January 23, 2002 under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (as amended).

Threats:  The remaining populations of golden sedge are currently threatened by habitat alteration including fire suppression, conversion of its limited habitat for residential, commercial, or industrial development, highway and utility expansion, right-of-way management with herbicides, and wetland drainage activities associated with silviculture, agriculture and development projects.

Why Protect Golden Sedge:  Extinction is a natural process.  Normally, new species develop through a process known as speciation at about the same rate they go extinct.  However, because of air and water pollution, over-hunting, extensive deforestation, the loss of wetlands, and other human-impacts, extinctions are now occurring at a rate that far exceeds speciation.  These actions are reducing the biodiversity on Earth.

The reduction of biodiversity reduces the ecological integrity of our environment.  All living organisms perform a function in our environment and are dependent on the functions of other organisms.  In turn, there is interconnectedness among species including us in the environment. 

For More Information on Golden Sedge... 

Do you need additional help? 

For additional information about Golden Sedge or the information presented on this webpage, contact Dale Suiter in the Raleigh Field Office at dale_suiter@fws.gov.

Questions related to the Service's endangered species program or other program activities can be addressed to the appropriate staff from our Asheville or Raleigh Field Offices.

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