Carex of Harrington Beach, Wisconsin

Carex of Harrington Beach, Wisconsin

Submitted March 8, 2013

By Linda W. Curtis


Harrington Beach, Belgium/Lake Church, Wiconsin was searched for Carices on 5 -3-12, 7-1-12, and 8-8-12 resulting in 14 species collected. The earliest sedges in May were C.  blanda and C. pedunculata. The Carices in July were C. bebbii, C. cristatella, C. intumescens, C. lupulina, C. pellita, C. radiata, C. retrorsa, and C. tuckermanii. The August Carices were C. aurea, C. normalis, C. tenera, C. stipata and C. tuckermanii again.


Harrington Beach borders one mile along the western Lake Michigan coast, 21 miles south of Sheboygan in Ozaukee County on Highway D. Coordinates are N43, 29’ 37.81 and W87, 48’ 8.13. The wave washed shore has an almost immediate cedar, paper birch and hardwood swamp without an intermediate swell and swale topography behind sand dunes. In all, the 715 acres with public grounds with campground and trails has a limestone quarry, wetlands, and successional old fields.

Many sedges including genus Carex grow in the various habitats and mature at different times. The forest herb layer in particular is rich in Carices.


Map work included viewing topographic and aerial photos. Fieldwork required stooping to finger-comb the grass-like clumps for fertile and sometimes shorter hidden culms. Only mature culms were taken as Carex is seldom identifiable in the field, except for the largest species.

Specimens were imaged with a camera that records GPS data in the field. The fresh plants survived well for days with culms in a beaker with water and were scanned and then their sheaths and perigynia were micro-imaged with a digital camera mounted on a bioscope. After pressing and drying, the plants were identified using manual with keys and online herbaria images. Then they were given labels with their GPS data and sent to various herbaria.


Carex are subgrouped into species with a male terminal spike separate from larger female spikes, and then those with numerous small spikes. In a simple key to the species, the plants with the separate male spike are first in paired choices.

Key to Carices of Harrington Beach 2012

1. Separate male spike
   2. Spikes thick or plump
      3. Spikes with perigynia pointing downward  C. retrorsa
      3. Spikes with horizontal to ascending perigynia.
         4. Perigynia broad-based, almost bag-like  C. tuckermanii
         4. Perigynia not bag-like, tapering from base
            5. Beak of perigynia thin and narrow     C. lupulina
            5. Beak of perigynia wedge-shaped                     
               6. Sacs 12 or less                   C. intumescens
                                  6. Sacs 12 or more, 2-3 separate male spikes                                                            C. lacustris
   2. Spikes narrow or sparse
      7. Perigynia woolly like a pelt, perigynia beak straight                                                       C. pellita
      7. Perigynia hairy or smooth, perigynia beakless or bent
  8. Perigynia bright orange when mature, orbiculate to ovoid                                                         C. aurea
  8. Perigynia not bright orange, mostly green to tan, beak bent 
     9. Perigynia smooth or sparsely hairy, male spike with 
        a few perigynia                          C. pedunculata
     9. Perigynia smooth, male spike with stamens only, aside 
          a female spike                            C. blanda
 1. No separate male spike, seed head of many small spikes
    10. Spikes starry or radiant                    C. radiata 
    10. Spikes not radiant, perigynia mostly ascending
        11. Front Band of culm sheaths cross puckered  C. stipata
                   11.  Front band of culm sheaths not cross puckered.
                         12. Seed head flexible, lowest spike appearing hinged      C. tenera
                         12. Seed head stiff, does not swing when whipped
                               13. Spikes clustered near tip of culm                             C. bebbii  
                               13. Spikes more of a row than a cluster along culm
                                     14.  Seed head turning brown when mature    C. cristatella 
                                     14.  Seed head remains green when mature C. normalis

Three specimens were sent to Dr. Andrew Hipp at the Morton Arboretum, C. pedunculata, C. retrorsa, and C. tuckermanii.  Duplicates were sent to University of Madison Herbarium plus  C. intumescens. To the UW-Milwaukee Herbarium, C. tuckermanii, C. retrorsa, and C. pedunculata plus C. lupulina. C. lacustris was vegetative only and not collected.


lupulina Willd

The 14 species collected on 3 searches indicates a greater number could be discovered, based on plant inventories from the Lake Michigan coast from Illinois Beach through Chiwaukee Prairie (Curtis 2013).


Ball, P. W.. and A.A. Reznicek. Eds. Cyperaceae. Flora of North America, Volume 23: 254-573. New York: Oxford University Press.

Curtis, L.W. 2013. Carex of the Zion beach-ridge Plain. Erigenia: Journal of the Illinois Native Plant Society. Also on C3 website.


 copyright © 2014 Linda Curtis, botanist

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