Carex pensylvanica

Yellow Sedge

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Carex, from the Latin, "sedge, reed grass, rush"
  • pensylvanica, from the Latin, "of Pennsylvania"
  • Common Name, from
  • Other common names include Pennsylvania Sedge, Penn Sedge, Early Sedge


  • 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: 39749
  • Also known as Carex marginata, Carex stolonifera


  • A native, low-growing, rhizomatous sedge, occuring in clustered, resilient, persistent tufts; typically found in extensive, pure stands.
  • Leaves long and narrow, 4"-18" long, approximately the same height as the stems.
  • Rhizomes cordlike and variable in length, usually in the top 4"-5" of soil.


  • A relatively short, terrestrial sedge.
  • Identifiable as
  • Distinguished from
  • Field Marks


  • East coast to North Dakota and Missouri and from southern Ontario and Quebec south to Tennessee and Virginia; also eastern Asia.


  • Typically top-killed by fire; does not do well after hot fires because its roots and rhizomes do not penetrate deeply into the soil.
  • Exploits fire-generated gaps in the litter layer through aggressive clonal propagation. Recovery is usually within 1 or 2 years.
  • Seed germination also occurs but is rare.
  • Habitat:

    • Forest understories and open meadows, with generally flat or gently rolling topography and slopes rarely exceeding 10%.
    • Well-drained sites, with soils ranging from clay, silty clay loam, sandy loams, to alluvial deposits. Some soil types are slightly acidic, relatively infertile, and may be of coarse or fine texture.
    • Best in dry deciduous forests and grasslands or other dry, open areas.
    • Found in successional and climax communities; usually dominant in early stages, as surrounding trees and shrubs are slow to invade. Dominant in meadows of the Great Lakes region and common in forest understories.
    • Commonly establishes on disturbed sites through vigorous rhizome growth. Invades burned and/or clearcut sites, forming pure stands.


    • Trees: Sugar Maple (Acer saccarum), Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana), Red Pine (Pinus resinosa), White Pine (Pinus strobus), Basswood (Tilia americana)
    • Shrubs: Blueberries (Vacciniumangustifolium, Vaccinium myrtilloides)
    • Herbs: Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis),
    • Birds: Provides cover for migratory waterfowl and sandhill cranes. Ducks use for nesting material and cover. Also provides nesting habitat, cover, and dancing grounds for sharptail grouse and prairie chickens.




    • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes.
    • Regenerates primarily by vegetative means. Its long rhizomes allow it to spread out and colonize nearby open areas. The short rhizomes are responsible for tuft or mat formation.
    • Wind pollinated and reproduces by seed; however, seedlings are rare.
    • A cool-season plant, making one of the earliest spring appearances of the sedges. Growth begins in shoots formed the previous autumn and early winter. Leaves are apparently functional during the winter, summer, and fall.


    • By rhizome division,


    • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
    • Sometimes planted as a "no mow" lawn.
    • Available by mail order from specialty suppliers or at local nurseries



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    Last updated on 26 February, 2004