Carex bigelowii

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Carex bigelowii
Carex bigelowii.JPG
Conservation status

Secure (NatureServe[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Cyperaceae
Genus: Carex
Species: C. bigelowii
Binomial name
Carex bigelowii
Torr. ex Schwein.
  • Carex concolor
  • Carex consimilis
  • Carex rigida

Carex bigelowii is a species of sedge known by the common name Bigelow's sedge. It has an Arctic–alpine distribution in Eurasia and North America, and grows up to 50 centimetres (20 in) tall in a variety of habitats.


Carex bigelowii has a circumpolar[2] or circumboreal distribution,[3] occurring throughout the northern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. It is present in Europe, Asia and North America, where it occurs from Alaska to Greenland, and in alpine climates as far south as Utah and Colorado.[3]


Carex bigelowii produces 3-angled stems up to 50 centimetres (1.6 ft) tall, growing in a tuft or singly. The leaves are stiff and dark green, and the leaves of previous seasons may remain on the plant. The inflorescence is accompanied by a short bract. The inflorescence has 1–3 black pistillate spikes under 1–2 staminate spikes.[2] The plant usually reproduces vegetatively, sprouting tillers from its rhizome. It also spreads via stolons.[3] It has a thick root network that allows it to form a turf, and the roots may grow 80 cm (2.6 ft) deep in the soil.[4] The plant sometimes reproduces sexually, producing seeds, which can remain viable for 200 years.[3]


Carex bigelowii grows in many types of Arctic and alpine habitat. It occurs in forest, bog, meadows and tundra. It occurs alongside plants such as willows (Salix spp.), dwarf arctic birch (Betula nana), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), bog blueberry (V. uliginosum), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), northern Labrador tea (Ledum palustre), American green alder (Alnus crispa), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), alpine bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina), varileaf cinquefoil (Potentilla diversifolia), elephanthead lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), white mountain avens (Dryas octopetala), entireleaf mountain avens (D. integrifolia), alpine timothy (Phleum alpinum), alpine rush (Juncus alpinus) and tussock cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), as well as feathermosses (Hylocomium and Aulacomium spp.), lichens (Cladonia and Cladina spp.), and sphagnum mosses.[3] In Scotland, particularly on Glas Maol, this sedge is codominant with the moss Racomitrium lanuginosum in a heath ecosystem, the British NVC community U10.[5] The sedge is also associated with this moss on lava fields in Iceland.[6]

Carex bigelowii can colonize disturbed habitat. It has been noted to grow at oil spill sites within two months of the disturbance, and it grows alongside the Dempster Highway in northwestern Canada. Its long-lasting soil seed bank allows it to sprout after the soil is disturbed, and the rhizomes may prevent erosion.[3]


  1. ^ "Carex bigelowii - Torr. ex Schwein.". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. July 2012. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Peter W. Ball & A. A. Reznicek (2003). "Carex bigelowii Torrey ex Schweinitz". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee. Cyperaceae. Flora of North America 23. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195152074. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Robin F. Matthews (1992). "Carex bigelowii". Fire Effects Information System. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ Melanie Schori (2004). "Conservation assessment for Bigelow's sedge (Carex bigelowii) Torr.". USDA Forest Service Eastern Region. Retrieved December 17, 2011. 
  5. ^ David Welch, David Scott & Des B. A. Thompson (2005). "Changes in the composition of Carex bigelowiiRacomitrium lanuginosum moss heath on Glas Maol, Scotland, in response to sheep grazing and snow fencing". Biological Conservation 122 (4): 621–631. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.09.016. 
  6. ^ B. Olle Jonsson, Ingibjörg S. Jónsdóttir & Nils Cronberg (1996). "Clonal Diversity and allozyme variation in populations of the Arctic sedge Carex bigelowii (Cyperaceae)". Journal of Ecology 84 (3): 449–459. JSTOR 2261206. 

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