Carex rostrata

Beaked Sedge

Beaked Sedge, Photo Courtesy USDA Plants Database

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The natural history of the northwoods


  • Carex, from the Latin, "sedge, reed grass, rush"
  • rostrata, from the Latin, rostratus, "beaked, hooked, curved at end"
  • Common Name, from
  • Other common names include: Blue Sedge, Bottle Sedge, Næb-Star (Dan), Pullosara (Fin), Seisg Shearragach (Gaelic), Schnabel-Segge (Ger), Ljosastör (Isl), Flaskestorr (Nor), Ostrica Zobáčikatá (Slovak), Flaskstarr (Swe)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Liliopsida, the Monocotyledons
      • Subclass Commelinidae
        • Order Cyperales
          • Family Cyperaceae, the Sedges
            • Genus Carex, the Sedges
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 39464
  • Also known as Carex ambigens, Carex ampullacea, Carex anticostensis, Carex inflata, Carex rostrata var. ambigens, Carex utriculata


  • A large, waterside, native, grasslike perennial.
  • Leaves flat, glaucous, long, and up to ½" wide, similar to stems in height, with 4-10 leaves per stem.
  • Stem upright, triangular, single or grouped, 12"-48"; smooth, usually spongy-inflated at the base.
  • Roots
  • Flowers borne in spikes, the male in 2-4 upper spikes, up to 3" long, the female in several lower, thicker spikes up to 4" long; scales pointed or awned at the tip, usually straw-colored.
  • Fruit a triangular achene, up to 1/10" long, with a persistent, twisted style. Eaten by waterfowl.
  • Seed
  • A frost-tolerant, prolific seeder. Forms indistict tussocks of dead or drying, fertile and old, and current and new shoots.
  • Lifespan 2-6 years.


  • Field Marks
    • Male and female flowers in separate spikes
    • Densely crowded perigynia swollen at the base and conspicuously beaked at the tip
    • Stems usually spongy-inflated at the base


  • Alaska to Greenland south to Delaware and west to Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California; also Scandanavia, Iceland, and Eurasia.


  • Most common in wet meadows, marshes, edges of lakes, ponds, and streams, and other riparian areas. The surface may be hummocky or mounded and in trough shaped or flat floored valleys. Grows best on gentle slopes. Sometimes a dominant species in floating mats.
  • Adapted to a variety of mineral and organic soils. Many soils have large amounts of peat. Other common soils may be sandy, silty, clayey, loamy, clayey loam, alluvial, or granitic. Soil pH tolerance 3.0-7.9.
  • Grows in areas where water is up to 32" below the soil surface, as well as areas with standing water to 39" deep. Compared with its waterside associates, occurs on some of the wettest sites. Common in recently formed beaver ponds and on sites with a high water table.
  • Beaked sedge communities have little species diversity, and invasion is limited by the dense rhizome network. Often succeeded by willows (Salix spp.), rushes (Juncus spp.), and reed grasses (Calamagrostis spp.). Beaked sedge is usually dominant or codominant where it occurs.
  • Deeply buried rhizomes usually survive all but the most severe fires. Fire consumes the aboveground tissue, top-killing the plant. The rhizomes, however, suvive most fires, even those that consume organic soils.


  • Shrubs: Willow (Salix spp.)
  • Herbs: Fewflowered Spikesedge (Eleocharis pauciflora), Common Willow Herb (Epilobium ciliatum), Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile), Swamp Cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris)
  • Ground Covers: Sphagnum Moss (Sphagnum spp.)
  • Mammals:
  • Birds: Mallard, Green Winged Teal, Common Yellowthroat, Red Winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, Tree Swallow. Usually more important as feeding grounds than as nesting grounds.




  • Sexually by seed
  • Flowers May-August
  • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes.
  • Reproduces by rhizomes varying from ½" to 8'. These produce a matted and tufted growth pattern. First a long rhizome emerges and a shoot is produced. Then, short rhizomes develop to produce a tuft of many shoots.
  • Also reproduces with stolons. Young roots have been observed developing near stolon tips.
  • A prolific seed producer.
  • Shoots can be spread by fragmentation. Ice can break off old shoots with associated roots. Shoots may be transported by water and caught by floating mats or end up on the shore. These shoots can root from the base and establish.
  • Begins producing new green leaves in early spring; growth at this time is rapid. There is a decrease in root biomass, and most energy is allocated to height increment . In July, when almost at its full height, energy allocation is shifted to shoot production.
  • Shoots emerge between July and August but may emerge in autumn also. Flora primordia develop in August or September. The shoot flowers the following summer, generally in June and July. Shoots that flower usually die in late August or September. Stays green well into fall because of the moist habitat but does turn brown before winter.
  • Many shoots emerge, overwinter, grow through the next season, overwinter, flower, and then die in August


  • By division


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Not generally available commercially.



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Last updated on 26 February, 2004