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NATURAL HISTORY

GOLDEN SEDGE } Carex lutea
FAMILY: Cyperaceae

DESCRIPTION: Golden sedge is a perennial herb that grows to be 39 inches or taller. It has yellowish-green, grass-like leaves, most of which are basal and may grow up to 11 inches in height; vegetative leaves may reach 26 inches in length. Fertile stems produce two to four flowering spikes, with a male terminal spike and one to three female lateral spikes (typical in most sedges). The perigynia (sacs enclosing the ovaries) are inflated, bright yellow in color at flowering, and approximately 0.16 to 0.20 inches long. Golden sedge is distinguished from other sedges sharing its habitat by its bright yellow coloration (particularly that of the female spikes), its height and slenderness, and especially by the out-curved points of its crowded perigynia.

HABITAT: Golden sedge grows in sandy soils overlying coquina limestone deposits, where the soil pH is typically between 5.5 and 7.2. Soils supporting the species are very wet to periodically shallowly inundated. The golden sedge prefers the narrow transition zone 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.

RANGE: This species occurs only in the northeast Cape Fear River watershed in North Carolina’s Onslow and Pender counties.

LIFE CYCLE: The plant flowers and fruits during mid-April to mid-June.

THREATS: Golden sedge is threatened by habitat alteration resulting from fire suppression; residential, commercial, and industrial development; highway and utility expansion; right-of-way management with herbicides; mining; and wetland drainage activities associated with silviculture, agriculture, and development projects.

POPULATION TREND: Although little is known about natural population fluctuations in this species, severe population declines exceeding 83 percent were noted between 1992 and 1996 at three of the plant’s eight remaining sites.

North Carolina golden sedge photo courtesy USFWS, Michael Kunz