Carex plantaginea – Seersucker Sedge

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A couple of weeks ago, as I went riding by the Nantahala river wishing that spring would hurry up and come, I marveled at the thousands and thousands of seersucker sedge plants that grew  on its banks. (along with Christmas fern, intermediate wood fern and Fraser sedge)

My blog has a tag phrase, Gardening with native plants...well, I don’t really garden, garden. I more or less get obsessed with the fact that we are surrounded by these beautiful plants which people sell and buy and pay good money for.  I do bring some of them into the “garden”, or rather beds on the property, but mostly I admire and enjoy them in situ.  I can’t get over that these plants I photograph, collect, and write about are simply where nature placed them.

And what a sight those sites are! (remember, that in situ simply means in or on the site in Latin. I could not resist being punny!) To take some of the photographs for this blog, I parked the car next to this stream where ferns and sedge were growing which gives you an idea of the environment Carex plantaginea likes.

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There are a couple of things about this sedge which I want to share.  For one thing, over the years I have collected many books on Appalachian and North Carolina plants and for a long time I was frustrated  because I could not find any reference to this plant and determine what it was. It simply “isn’t there”, which is a shame because the other thing I want to share is that now being able to search the Internet  and knowing the name of plant,  I find that many plant nurseries sell Carex plantaginea.  And, for good reason.  Click here, here, and here for some links to commercial nurseries offering the plant and you will get the idea.

The plant grows naturally along streams like the one in the photograph, so a shady, rather moist environment would be the best place for it in the garden.  The plants I have in my garden behave like hardy perennials, which not only take well to being away from a stream but apparently send out seeds which produce new plants  as several  have appeared on their own after the initial one was planted.

The plant is evergreen, and wildlife will eat it in the winter.  I can’t tell whether rabbits, groundhogs, or deer, but their nibbling on it does not destroy the plant.  It is hardy.  Remember, not all native plants like being moved into the garden, but this plant not only does not mind it, but does well.

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This photograph shows the crinkly leaves which give Carex plantaginea its common name, Seersucker Sedge. It also goes by another common name, Plantainleaf Sedge.  The plant’s flowers are not remarkable or showy, but, interesting.

In early March (in Nantahala), little spikes of about 6″ in height begin to appear in the center of the plant which will bear the flowers. The photograph below shows the spikes growing out of a plant which has been enjoyed by wildlife, but, obviously, not really harmed.

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A close up

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The little spikes open up, as in the next photograph, and as the season progresses will produce  achenes which are tiny one-seeded  fruit.  For a good explanation of what an  achene is, which is posted by the Ohio site, click here 

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A fun plant, I think.  A little unusual and it does really well in the garden given a shady spot.

The genus Carex means “grass with sharp edge” in Latin, according to the Note in the entry for Carex plantaginea in  Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians, which was re-published last summer.


I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a reference source on native plants of the area.  The book is organized by plant families and very easy to flip through and find a photograph which will help identify your find.

Other species in the genera are always mentioned, which is great, and the botanical explanation is thorough.  Informative notes such as the meaning of the word Carex in the entry for Carex plantaginea are included which add a lot, in my view. The size is great, also, as is the very good cross-referenced index and the glossary which is illustrated with line drawings.  Click on the title above and the link will take you to the book’s Amazon page.



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