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

Carex scirpoidea Michx.
single-spike sedge (northern singlespike sedge)
Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #10325)

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Distribution of Carex scirpoidea
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from stout, creeping rhizomes; stems 10-60 cm tall, arising singly or a few together, equalling or longer than the leaves.
Sheaths tight, hairy below; ligules short; blades 2 to 4 per stem, flat or somewhat channeled, borne on the lower 1/3 to 1/2 of the stem, 1-3 mm wide.
Spikes solitary, either male or female on separate plants, the male spikes cylindrical, erect, the female spikes many-flowered, similar, 1.5-4 cm long, 2.5-5 mm wide, unstalked; bracts scalelike, prolonged into awns up to 2 cm long or sometimes awnless.
Perigynia egg-shaped to elliptical or nearly globe-shaped, 2.5-4.5 mm long, 1-2 mm wide, appressed, slightly spreading at maturity, straw-coloured, short-hairy on the backs, especially towards the tips, obscurely several-nerved, unstalked to short-stalked, the beaks bidentate, evident, short, slender; female scales broadly egg-shaped, slightly shorter and as wide as the perigynia, rounded, brown to blackish, the centres pale, the margins narrowly translucent; stigmas 3; achenes 3-angled, about 1.5-2 mm long.
Three varieties occur in BC.

1. Perigynia egg-shaped to elliptical, mostly 3-4.5 mm long and more than 2.5 times as long as wide; achenes distinctly stalked; plants of moist sites mainly of W BC..................... var. stenochlaena Holm

1. Perigynia nearly globe-shaped, mostly 2.5-3 mm long and less than 2.5 times as long as wide; achenes short-stalked or unstalked; plants of mesic to dry sites in SC BC or N and SE BC.

2. Stems with the lowest leaves reduced to scales, the flowering ones arising from the current year's vegetative shoots which have conspicuous basal scale leaves; plants mainly of N and SE BC......................... var. scirpoidea

2. Stems with the lowest leaves well developed, clothed at bases with the conspicuous dried-up leaves of the previous year; plants mainly in the Cascades...................... var. pseudoscirpoidea (Rydb.) Cronq.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Early Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist meadows and streambanks (var. stenochlaena) or mesic to dry meadows and open rocky slopes (var. pseudoscirpoidea and var. scirpoidea) from the montane to alpine zones; var. pseudoscirpoidea - locally frequent in the Cascade Mountains, rare elsewhere in SC BC; var. scirpoidea - frequent in N and SE BC; var. stenochlaena - frequent in W BC, less frequent eastward; var. pseudoscirpoidea - S to CO, UT and CA; var. scirpoidea - amphiberingian, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to NH, MI, CO and WA; Greenland, E Asia; var. stenochlaena - N to AK and YT and S to MT, ID and E OR.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Carex scirpoidea

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) 7 1765 2682
Slope Gradient (%) 0 26 110
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
2 202 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 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(35), BAFA(46), BWBS(9), CMA(2), CWH(1), ESSF(81), ICH(2), IDF(2), IMA(8), MH(10), MS(5), SBPS(1), SBS(3), SWB(31)


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.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Carex scirpoidea var. convoluta Kük.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References