Carex sect. Paniceae

G. Don

in J. C. Loudon, Hort. Brit., 376. 1830.

Treatment appears in FNA Volume 23.

Plants loosely cespitose or, usually, colonial, rhizomatous. Culms brown or purple at base. Leaves: basal sheaths sometimes fibrous; sheath fronts membranous; blades M-shaped in cross section when young, adaxial side of blades with 2 lateral veins more prominent than midvein, not septate-nodulose, widest leaf blade usually less than 5 mm wide, papillose on abaxial surface, glabrous. Inflorescences racemose, with 2–4(–5) spikes; proximal bracts leaflike, long-sheathing, sheath more than 4 mm, longer than diameter of stem; lateral spikes pistillate, pedunculate, prophyllate; terminal spike staminate, solitary. Proximal pistillate scales with apex obtuse to short-awned. Perigynia ascending to spreading, yellow-brown to dark brown when mature, distinctly or indistinctly veined, with 2, strong, marginal veins, sessile, ovate to obovate, obtusely trigonous to circular in cross section, base tapering, apex tapering or rounded, beaked or not, smooth or minutely papillose, glabrous; beak 0–1.8(–2.2) mm, orifice entire or bidentate. Stigmas 3. Achenes trigonous, smaller than bodies of perigynia; style deciduous. x = 16 to 26+3.


Temperate and cooler latitudes of North America and Eurasia, mountains of Central America and South America.


Species 14 (10 in the flora).

Many species in Carex sect. Paniceae are calciphiles.

Selected References



1 Perigynium apex contracted to cylindric beak (0.4–)0.6–1.8(–2.2) mm. > 2
1 Perigynium apex tapering and beakless, indistinctly beaked, or contracted to beak less than 0.5 mm. > 4
2 Bladeless basal sheaths and proximal leaf sheaths pale brown; culms, leaves, and perigynia not or very sparsely papillose. Carex vaginata
2 Bladeless basal sheaths and proximal leaf sheaths strongly tinged with reddish purple; culms, leaves, and perigynia heavily papillose. > 3
3 Perigynia 4.2–6.8 mm; beak 0.8–1.8(–2.2) mm with strongly asymmetrically flared apex. Carex polymorpha
3 Perigynia 3.4–4.2 mm; beak 0.5–1 mm with apex not distinctly flared. Carex californica
4 Lateral spikes nodding on flexible peduncles. Carex laxa
4 Lateral spikes erect or ascending on stiff peduncles. > 5
5 Perigynia strongly ascending, beakless or cuneately tapering to erect, straight beak; leaves coriaceous, channeled, glaucous. Carex livida
5 Perigynia ascending to spreading, concavely tapering (at least on 1 side) to deflexed, curved beak; leaves herbaceous, flat or folded, not or slightly glaucous. > 6
6 Bladeless basal sheaths and proximal leaf sheaths strongly tinged with reddish purple; plants forming loose clumps to extensive closed colonies of vegetative shoots from superficial rhizomes. > 7
6 Bladeless basal sheaths and proximal leaf sheaths brownish or faintly, irregularly tinged with reddish purple; plants usually with vegetative shoots widely scattered and inconspicuous from deep rhizomes. > 8
7 Widest leaves 1.8–3(–4) mm wide; plants colonial with longest rhizomes 2.5–18 cm; woodlands. Carex woodii
7 Widest leaves 3.5–6 mm wide; plants loosely cespitose with longest rhizomes to 2 cm; granite balds and cliffs. Carex biltmoreana
8 Inflorescences usually 1.7–3.5(–4.3) times as long as bract (measured from node) of proximal nonbasal spike; culms usually smooth distally. Carex panicea
8 Inflorescences usually 0.9–1.6 times as long as bract (measured from node) of proximal nonbasal spike; culms often scabrous distally. > 9
9 Achenes 1.7–2.2(–2.5) mm wide; ligules 0.4–1.2 times as long as wide. Carex meadii
9 Achenes 1.2–1.6(–1.8) mm wide; ligules (0.8–)1–2 times as long as wide. Carex tetanica