Carex at Fort Sheridan Lake County Forest Preserve

Recent discoveries of Carex at Fort Sheridan Lake County Forest Preserve, Lake County, Illinois

by Linda W. Curtis


On the bluff above Lake Michigan, Linda Curtis searches for Carex around this restored pond.  To the upper left is the former airfield where WW2 pilots trained for take-offs and landings, now a restored prairie by the Lake County Forest Preserves.


The LCFP Plant Inventory for Fort Sheridan (2011) listed six Carex of 176 plant species: C. aurea, C. blanda, C. eburnea, C. pedunculata, C. pensylvanica, and C. rosea.  This research  found 15 Carex species, 3 of the 6 were on the inventory list plus 6 unreported species. Of those 3 were possibly from a restoration project of transplants and seedings*.  C. brevior*, C. frankii*, C. gracilescens, C. granularis,  C. lurida*, C. normalis, C. pellita, C. stipata,  C. tenera, and C. vulpinoidea. The pressed plants were imaged and then sent to herbaria at the Illinois State Museum and the Morton Arboretum. Other inventories of Carex for the Illinois Lake Michigan Coast and the Wisconsin Chiwaukee Prairie, north of Illinois Beach State Park, had similar species with the notable exceptions of C. frankii and C. lurida. (Curtis 2013)


A permit was requested and granted from the Lake County Forest Preserve allowing only culms taken from fields, depressions, open oak savanna, and a pond north of the parking lot nearest the beach, but not ravines. Carex were photographed for morphology and associates with global position. Later the fresh specimens were micro-photographed before pressing and sent to Illinois herbaria.

Table 1: Carex species in the 2011 LCFP Fort Sheridan Site Inventory

species      common name    location

C. aurea, Golden Sedge, FACW+

C. blanda, Wood Sedge, FAC 

C. eburnea, Ivory Sedge, FACU- 

C. pedunculata, Long-stalked Hummock Sedge, UPL

C. pensylvanica, Oak Sedge, UPL

C. rosea, Curly Styled Wood Sedge, UPL

Table 2: Carex species collected in 2012 research at Fort Sheridan

Species, common name, location

C. brevior, Plains Oval Sedge, FACU
C. blanda, Common Wood Sedge, FAC
C. frankii, Bristly Cattail Sedge, OBL
C. gracilescens, Slender Wood Sedge, UPL
C. granularis, Pale Sedge, FACW+
C. lurida, Bottlebrush Sedge, OBL
C. normalis, Spreading Oval Sedge, FAC
C. pellita, Woolly Sedge, OBL
C. pensylvanica, Penn Sedge,UPL
C. rosea, Curly-styled Wood Sedge,UPL
C. stipata, Common Fox Sedge, OBL
C. tenera,Narrow-leaved Oval Sedge,FAC-
C. vulpinoidea, Brown Fox Sedge, OBL

Although the Fort Sheridan ravines were not searched, the LCFP inventory of the nearby McCormick Ravine in Lake Forest listed some species not in Tables 1 or 2.

Table 3: McCormick Ravine Inventory 2011

species      common name          location

C. blanda, Charming Sedge, Wood Sedge, FAC 1

C. cephalophora*, Short-headed Bracted Sedge, FACU 3

C. gracilescens, Slender Wood Sedge, UPL 10

C. gracillima*, Purple-sheathed Graceful Sedge, FACU+ 10

C. granularis, Pale Sedge, Grain Sedge, FACU+ 4

C. gravida*, Long-awned Bracted Sedge, (FACU) 4

C. hirsutella*, Hairy Green Sedge, UPL 5

C. pedunculata, Long-stalked Hummock Sedge, UPL 10

C. pensylvanica, Penn Sedge,  UPL 5

C. rosea, Curly-styled Wood Sedge, UPL 5


C. aurea of LCFP inventory was not found.It has golden,edible sacs. C=9 
C. brevior was reported as seeded but some plants were likely remnants. The flat winged sacs are similar to C. bicknellii, but that species has papillose sheaths. C=4
C. blanda was the most conspicuous and grew as low tufts along the trail.  C=1
C. eburnea was not found. A small sedge, its leaves are less than 1 mm wide. C=10
C. frankii  was planted along the cattail pond near Jane's Ravine above the beach. Its usual 
habitat is moist woods along rivers. The plants may not reproduce. C=8
C. granularisis common in open areas along Lake Michigan coast. C=4
C. gracilescens grew under the oaks along the parking lot trail beach. It‘s long stalked male spike differs from similar C. blanda's short male spike.. In spring, the basal sheaths are red while C. blanda’s are brown. Not available from nurseries. C=10
C. hirsutella, planted, from Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota, but not  found. This was on 
the McCormick Ravine list but ravines were not searched. (Table 3). C=4
C. lurida was purchased from Agreco in Wisconsin, and planted at the pond shore. C=8
C. normalis grew near C. rosea in open savanna. C=5 
C. pellita grew in a large colonial patch just past the oaks on the trail. The female spikes have woolly sacs (perigynia). While categorized as an obligate wetland plant, its rhizomes allowed it to spread into higher and drier areas. C=4
C. pedunculata, not found, grows on bluffs and ravines. Its sacs are dispersed by ants. C=10
C. pensylvanica was colonial under oaks along trail to the beach. C=5
C. rosea was under the oaks but some were reported planted. C=4
C. stipata grew in moist depressions in fields and near the pond. C=3
C. tenera grew in wet depressions in the field. C=8
C. vulpinoidea also grew in wet depressions. The long seed heads are shorter than their leaves while similar C. annecten’s seed heads are longer than the leaves. C=3


The Fort Sheridan 2011 inventory listed 6 Carex species before the restoration project. (Table 1). C. rosea, C. pensylvanica, and C. blanda were found from that list but none of C. aurea, C. eburnea or C. pedunculata. Newly found in 2012, C. gracilescens, grew in the open oak area with C. rosea and C. pensylvanica . (Table 2). Also new,  C. pellita grew past the oak area along the trail, a likely remnant species since it grows at IBSP, Spring Bluff, and Chiwaukee Prairie. (Table 4).

LCFPD orders seeds and plants from within a 200 mile radius except for Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota. (K. Schultz, 2012). The restoration project plants included sedges C.  brevior, C. frankii, C. lurida, C. hirsutella, and C. rosea. (K. Klick 2012).

To the north, the Illinois Beach State Park had 48 vouchered Carex species, and combined with adjoining Spring Bluff Lake County Forest Preserve and Chiwaukee Prairie, the list now has 60 species. Although the topography of the bluff areas differs from the Zion Beach Ridge by not having marshes, swales, and floodplain, more unreported remnant species of Carex are still likely to be discovered at Ft. Sheridan.

Table 4: Carex of Lake Michigan Coast including Fort Sheridan L.W. Curtis (2011)

Key to abbreviations. IBSP = Illinois Beach State Park, SB = Spring Bluff of Lake County Forest Preserve, Illinois, CHI = Chiwaukee Prairie, Kenosha County, Wisconsin, and FS = Fort Sheridan, Lake County Forest Preserve, Illinois. Updated with C. lurida, planted

Species                Common name                       Location

C. annectens var. xanthocarpa, Small Yellow Fox Sedge, IBSP SB

C. aquatilis, Long-bracted Tussock Sedge, ISBP SB CHI

C. atherodes, Hairy-leaved Wheat Sedge, SB CHI

C. aurea, Golden Sedge, IBSP FS

C. bebbii, Bebb’s Sedge, IBSP SB FS

C. bicknellii, Bicknell’s Sedge, ISBP SB CHI

C. blanda, Wood Sedge, ISBP FS

C. brevior, Plaines Oval Sedge, IBSP CHI FS

C. buxbaumii, Dark-scaled Sedge, IBSP SB

C. cephalophora, Short-headed Bracted Sedge, IBSP

C. comosa, Bristly Sedge, IBSP

C. conjuncta, Green-Headed Fox Sedge, IBSP

C. conoidea, Prairie Gray Sedge, IBSP SB CHI

C. crawei, Early Fen Sedge, IBSP SB CHI

C. cristatella, Crested Sedge, IBSP SB

C. cryptolepis, Small Yellow Sedge,  CHI

C. davisii, Awned Graceful Sedge, IBSP

C. diandra, Bog Panicled Sedge, IBSP CHI

C. eburnea, Ivory Sedge, IBSP FS

C. emoryi, Riverbank Sedge, IBSP

C. festucacea, Fescue Oval Sedge,  IBSP CHI

C. flava, Yellow Sedge, CHI

C. frankii, Frank’s Sedge, FS

C. garberi, False Golden Sedge, IBSP

C. granularis, Pale Sedge, IBSP SB CHI FS

C. gracilescens, Slender Wood Sedge, FS

C. grisea, Wood Gray Sedge, IBSP

C. haydenii, Long-scaled Tussock Sedge,  SB CHI

C. hitchcockiana, Hairy Gray Sedge,  IBSP

C. hystericina, Porcupine Sedge, IBSP SB CHI

C. hyalinolepis, Shoreline Sedge, IBSP

C. inops ssp. heliophila, Common Oak Sedge IBSP

C. interior  Prairie Star Sedge, IBSP SB

C. lacustris, Rip-gut, IBSP SB

C. laxiflora, Beech Wood Sedge, SB

C.  lurida, Bottlebrush Sedge, FS

C. meadii, Mead’s Stiff Sedge, IBSP SB CHI

C. molesta, Troublesome Sedge, IBSP

C. muhlenbergii, Sand Bracted Sedge, IBSP SB CHI

C. normalis, Normal Sedge, IBSP CHI FS

C. pedunculata, Long-stalked Hummock Sedge, FS

C. pellita, Woolly Sedge, IBSP SB CHI FS

C. pensylvanica, Penn Sedge, IBSP SB CHI FS

C. prairea, Fen Panicled Sedge, CHI

C. retrorsa, Retrorse Sedge, IBSP

C. richardsonii, Prairie Hummock Sedge, IBSP CHI

C. rosea, Curly-styled Wood Sedge, SB FS

C. sartwellii, Running Marsh Sedge, IBSP SB

C. scoparia, Lance-fruited Oval Sedge, IBSP

C. siccata, Running Savanna Sedge, IBSP SB

C. sparganioides, Loose-headed Bracted Sedge, IBSP

C. sterilis, Fen Star Sedge, IBSP SB  CHI

C. stipata, Common Fox Sedge, IBSP SB CHI FS

C. stricta, Tussock Sedge, IBSP  SB CHI

C. suberecta, Wedge-fruited Oval Sedge, IBSP CHI

C. tenera, Narrow-leaved Oval Sedge,  SB FS

C. tetanica, Common Stiff Sedge, IBSP SB CHI

C. tonsa, Smooth-fruited Oak Sedge, IBSP CHI

C. tribuloides, Blunt Broom Sedge, IBSP SB CHI

C. umbellata, Early Oak Sedge, IBSP SB  CHI

C. viridula, Green Yellow Sedge, IBSP CHI

C. vulpinoidea, Brown Fox Sedge, IBSP CHI FS


copyright © 2014 Linda Curtis, botanist


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