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

Carex spectabilis Dewey
showy sedge
Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #4322)

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Distribution of Carex spectabilis
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Species Information

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Perennial, tufted herb from short, stout rhizomes; stems 15-60 cm tall, exceeding the leaves.
Sheaths purplish-red towards the bases; blades flat, 2-6 mm wide, the lower ones much reduced.
Spikes 3 to 9, the terminal one with male flowers, the lower spikes 2 to 8, with female flowers, 1.5-3.5 cm long, short-stalked, erect, except the lowermost often long-stalked and nodding; bracts subtending the spikes sheathless, bristlelike, and shorter than the inflorescence, or leaflike and longer than the inflorescence.
Perigynia egg-shaped, 2.5-3.5 mm long, 1.2-1.8 mm wide, yellow-green, or brown to purple-black, nerveless or faintly nerved, the beaks short, 0.3-0.5 mm long; female scales lanceolate, nearly as long as and narrower than the perigynia, pointed at the tips and extended into short awns, reddish-black, with light brown margins; stigmas 3; achenes 3-angled, egg-shaped, 1.4-1.7 mm long.
Sometimes difficult to separate from C. podocarpa in NW BC.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist to mesic meadows and forest openings in the montane to alpine zones; common in S BC, less frequent in C and NW BC; N to AK and YT, E to SW AB and S to CO, UT and CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Carex spectabilis

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) 620 1917 2520
Slope Gradient (%) 0 27 119
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 185 360
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(98), BAFA(6), BWBS(2), CMA(45), CWH(1), ESSF(694), ICH(14), IDF(3), IMA(82), MH(39), MS(1), SBPS(2)


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 alpine tundra & boreal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Carex invisa L.H. Bailey
Carex nigella Boott
Carex tolmiei Boott

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References