This plant is native to North America, especially eastern Canada and the eastern United States. Based on a census of the literature, herbaria specimens, and confirmed sightings, C. pensylvanica is found in Manitoba Ontario and Quebec in Canada; and in the United States it is most widely distributed in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, mainland Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin. it is also known from northern Alabama, the western Carolinas, the mostly eastern Dakotas, northern and southern Delaware, northern Georgia, western Iowa, mostly northern Indiana, northern and eastern Missouri, mostly central and eastern Ohio, and mostly central Tennessee. It is also found in Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland and the District of Columbia, New York, West Virginia, and Vermont. It has been reported from just one county, Lee, in the far northeastern portion of the state of Mississippi.
The species is also known from eastern Asia.
This competitive species is often found in large monotypic stands. It is mainly vegetative, spreading via systems of cordlike rhizomes. Shorter rhizomes produce tufts, clumps, and mats, and longer rhizomes form wide, matted colonies.
- C. pensylvanica was first described and published in Encyclopedie Methodique. Botanique ... (Lamarck) 3(2): 388. 1792. Paris. "Plant Name Details for Carex pensylvanica". IPNI. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
- "Profile for Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)". PLANTS Database. USDA, NRCS. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
- Hilty, J. (April 7, 2010). "Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvania)". Illinois Wildflowers. Urbana, Illinois. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
- Cope, A. B. 1992. Carex pensylvanica. In: Fire Effects Information System, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.