Guides for posting effective Carex sp. (true sedge) observations

I find myself often taking photos of sedges on my hikes in Ontario because I quite like them, but I realize that there are many species of true sedge, Carex sp., in my area and that I don’t know how to confidently ID any. I’m also not sure if they all can reliably be identified by visual features or separated from one another.

Are there any good guides out there for how to pick out certain features of sedges to aid identification by photos, etc.? I’m partly interested in actual identification guides but my main goal is to see if there are any guidelines that can be followed to ensure that iNaturalist observations of these species have the best chances of being correctly identified to species level. Either to allow an inexperienced observer to figure out what to look for to learn ID or to make it easier for more knowledgeable sedge IDers to do their thing.


@sedgequeen This one’s for you…


@sedgesrock has some recommendations here:

Photos should include, if possible:

  • Habitat (wetland, streamside, among rocks etc.)
  • Longevity & habit: show base of plant & its neighbours (indicating whether annual or perennial; a tussock or rhizomatous etc.)
  • Leaves & stem (leaf shape, hairiness, arrangement; stem scapose or nodose)
  • Mature inflorescence appearance (bracts, overall shape i.e. umbellate, paniculate, compact head etc.)
  • Close-up of individual inflorescence units (spikelet, head etc.)
  • Close-up of glumes
  • Close-up of fruit (if at all possible)

I also wrote about this topic, in my journal at Terminology is a bit different from that of @sedgesrock but ideas are pretty much the same.


Some useful sources for Carex identification:

Field Guide to the Sedges of the Pacific Northwest by Wilson et al.
Woodland Carex of the Upper Midwest by Linda Curtis
Michigan Flora, Part I, by Edward Voss
Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri
Field Guide to the Wisconsin Sedges by Andrew Hipp
Manual of Carices of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Basin by Frederick Hermann
Field Guide to Intermountain Sedges by Hurd et al.
Manual of the Genus Carex in Mexico and Central America by Frederick Hermann
Carex of Central Florida by Linda Curtis
Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest, Vol. 1, by Hitchcock et al.
Jepson Manual, Vascular Flora of California, by Baldwin et al. or on-line


I also make a project called Carex with Free Perigynia for observations that have the perigynia (= utricles, fruit) spread out so we can see them well. Spreading out the perigynia isn’t always needed for identification, but it sure can help, especially if the spikelets are crowded. In fact, you can’t ID some species without doing this.

Please join the project and add observations to it or look through and and identify any of these observations you can.


How cann you tell just by looking if a plant is annual or perennial?

If you’re asking me, I don’t know. I just shared the tips from that blog post.

If you look at the base of the plant and see remnants of last year’s leaves, you know it was a perennial. If you don’t, it’s probably an annual. My personal method, though, is that if I can easily pull it up with roots, it was annual, and if I can’t it’s perennial. Also, if it has rhizomes it’s perennial.

In the genus Carex all species are perennial, though a few (e.g. C. athrostachya, C. sycnocephala) can flower the first year and can function as annuals. Annuals occur in Cyperus and some other genera.


In addition to sedgequeen’s list, I’d recommend Sedges of Maine: A Field Guide to Cyperaceae by Arsenault et al., which has multiple color photos for every species in the state (plus keys, a glossary, etc.). I suspect many of the sedges you encounter in Ontario would be covered in the Maine book.

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Oh hey, i was just diving into some of my sedge observations lately after getting some very helpful comments.

My favorite books for my region (Northeastern US, southeastern Canada) are Sedges of Maine and Sedges of the Northern Forest. The latter is wonderful because i am very visual and the photos are amazing, but the former is better if you are starting from ground zero or need more narrative information. I also use the go botany website which is based on flora of nova anglicae by Haines 2011. But, that i use less for sedges than other taxa.

I will join the Sedges with Free Peregynia project, though i would just be adding my old observations over time as some have free peregynia and some do not. I’d love to get more sedge ID talk on here, i am okay with them, but they are so important to the botanical work I do and i definitely have more to learn about them (edit: i see some of my observations were already added to this project, thank you!)

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Might also want to check out this site -

This is perfect, thank you - this and sedgesrock’s list are exactly the type of thing I was looking for.

I hope I get to use this info next time I go for a hike!


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