E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Carex brunnescens (Pers.) Poir.
brownish sedge
Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Ryan Batten  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #53027)

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Distribution of Carex brunnescens
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Carex brunnescens ssp. brunnescens

Species Information

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Perennial, somewhat tufted herb from short rhizomes; stems 15-70 cm tall, usually longer than the leaves.
Sheaths tight; blades numerous, borne on the lower part of the stem, 1-2.5 mm wide, flat, the lowermost leaves often reduced.
Spikes 4 to 9 in a 3- to 5-cm long, narrow, interrupted inflorescence, occasionally with a few of the uppermost spikes aggregated into a small cluster, egg-shaped, many-flowered, 4-7 mm long, ascending, with both female and male flowers, the female flowers towards the tips, the male flowers inconspicuous; lowermost bract reduced or rarely awnlike, about 0.5 cm long.
Perigynia egg-shaped, 2-3.5 mm long, 0.5-0.8 mm wide, dark green or brownish, minutely whitish-dotted, plano-convex, smooth, lightly nerved on both surfaces, unstalked, the beaks about 0.5 mm long, smooth, cleft on the upper surface; female scales egg-shaped, covering about 2/3 of the perigynia, pointed, green, with green midribs; stigmas 2; achenes lens-shaped, 1.2-1.7 mm long, filling the perigynia.
This is a variable species whose taxonomy and distribution have not been sufficiently studied. Kalela (1965) distinguished the following three subspecies in British Columbia:

1. Plants densely tufted; stems 15-40 cm long, stiff with short stiff leaves; perigynia 2-2.5 mm long, with a dark brown tinge, the margins without wings, with thick walls, coarsely dotted/pitted....................... ssp. alaskana Kalela

1. Plants loosely tufted, stems 30-70 cm long, lax with long, lax leaves; perigynia 2-3.5 mm long, with a purplish or rusty tinge, with winged margins, thin-walled, finely dotted/pitted.

2. Spikes all separated; perigynia without sharp lateral margins and with faint nerves, light olive-green when ripe; achenes entirely filling the perigynia......................... ssp. sphaerostachya (Tuckerm.) Kalela

2. Spikes forming a terminal head, only the lowermost spike remote; perigynia with weak margins and nerves, olive-brown, with rusty-brown spots when ripe; achenes not entirely filling the perigynia.......................ssp. pacifica Kalela

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Bogs, fens and wet sites in forests in the montane and subalpine zones; frequent in N BC, rare in mountains S of 54degreeN; circumpolar, ssp. alaskana - N to AK, YT and NT and E to MB; ssp. pacifica - N to AK and S to WA and ID; ssp. sphaerostachya - N to NT, E to NF and S to ME, MS, SC, TN, OK, CO, UT, NV and OR; Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Carex brunnescens

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 415 1297 3000
Slope Gradient (%) 0 6 75
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
5 315 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 5 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(1), BAFA(8), BWBS(8), CWH(4), ESSF(45), ICH(19), IDF(2), IMA(3), MS(13), SBPS(5), SBS(27)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References