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North Dakota's

Federally Listed Endangered, Threatened, and Candidate Species – 1995

Handsome Sedge (Carex formosa)

jpg -- species photo GIF -- species photo

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Status: Former Candidate (Note: As of February 28, 1996, this species is no longer listed as a Candidate species. However, it remains a species of management concern.)

Historical Status:
Handsome sedge is known to occur in Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Quebec. The first report of handsome sedge in North Dakota was made by Gerald Wheeler in 1978, who re-examined a specimen collected and misidentified from 1945. Handsome sedge was re-discovered in North Dakota in 1989.

Present Status:
Handsome sedge has a very restricted range and is considered rare or local in the states and province where it occurs. It is no longer found in Ohio. In North Dakota, there are 3 records from approximately 1 mile of river valley in Richland County. These sites represent the westernmost known population of handsome sedge, located far from the nearest known population in southeastern Minnesota, approximately 250 miles away.

In general, handsome sedge is associated with eastern deciduous forests. In North Dakota, it is restricted to moist lowland forests of the Sheyenne River These woodlands are dominated by aspen and green ash, often near groundwater discharge zones.

Life History:
Handsome sedge is a perennial (lives for several years) that initiates growth in early May. Flowers develop in early June with the fruit maturing toward the end of June. Fruits often stay on the plant into the fall.

Aid to identification:
The sedges belong to one of the largest and most difficult groups of flowering plants to identify. Distinctions are based upon careful examination of the mature fruit through a dissecting scope. In general, sedges can be identified by their grass-like appearance and 3 angled stems. Flowers occur in several spikes at the upper part of the stem and have no petals or sepals. Handsome sedge stems are purple tinged at the base and have 3-4 flat, deep-green, grass-like leaves. Its arching stems may grow over two feet long. The arching stems, drooping fruits, and tufted growth form, give this plant a cascading appearance similar to long-beaked sedge, Carex sprenglii, with which it may be confused with.

Reasons for decline:
Due to the limited range of this species in North Dakota, it is especially vulnerable to habitat destruction. Widespread practices of logging along the Sheyenne River, are potential detrimental impacts.

Notify a natural resources agency of any suspected handsome sedges.

There are nearly 100 species of sedge in the northern United States, with many occurring in the Great Plains. The name "handsome sedge" is believed to be in reference to the striking appearance of the plant.

Carex formosa in North Dakota, by The Michigan Botanist 22:162. North Dakota Sensitve Plant Guide, by the U.S. Forest Service, 1991.

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