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COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Baikal Sedge in Canada

COSEWIC Status Report
on the
Baikal Sedge
Carex sabulosa
in Canada

Species Information

Name and Classification

Scientific name:

Carex sabulosa Turczaninow ex Kunth


Carex leiophylla Mackenzie;
Carex sabulosa ssp. leiophylla (Mackenzie) A.E. Porsild

Common name:

Baikal sedge


Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)

Major plant group:

Monocot flowering plant


Baikal Sedge, Carex sabulosa, is a member of a genus of about 2000 species (Ball and Reznicek 2002). One hundred and five Carex species occur in the Yukon and about 275 in Canada (Scoggan 1978, Cody 2000).

Carex sabulosa is a tufted perennial with long rhizomes (Figures 1 and 2, Cody 2000). The stems are 15-35 cm. long, weak, arching with mature fruiting heads often touching the ground. The 1-3.5 mm wide leaves are thick at the base, grayish-green, flat with involute margins and taper to a fine tip. The leaves have long, usually underground, purplish sheaths and are mostly shorter than the stems. The 2-5 cm long inflorescence consists of 3 to 5 spikes. The club-shaped terminal spike has female flowers positioned above the male flowers while the lateral spikes have female flowers only. The lateral spikes may be aggregated or have the lower ones separated. They have stiff, short, erect stems or some may be stemless. The female scales are ovate-lanceolate, acute to acuminate, as long as the perigynia, purplish-black with a lighter midvein and have hyaline margins. The perigynia are 4-5 mm long, ovate to suborbicular, yellowish green, blotched with brown and stipitate with bidentate, brown marked beaks about 1 mm long. There are three stigmas.

Carex sabulosa was first described in 1837 from material collected in central Asia near Lake Baikal. In North America, Carex sabulosa was first recognized as C. leiophylla Mackenzie (Murray 2002). Later, the species was considered synonymous with C. sabulosa by Raymond (1965). Porsild (1966), published the combination, Carex sabulosa ssp. leiophylla (Mackenzie) A.E. Porsild, based on minor differences between the Asian and North American plants. In a recent Carex treatment in Flora North America, Murray (2002) placed ssp. leiophylla in synonymy with C. sabulosa since the North American material falls “well within the variability of C. sabulosa from Asia”.

Carex sabulosa is distinguished from other sedges in the Yukon by the presence of at least some lateral spikes with stems; glabrous, spreading to ascending perigynia which have toothed beaks; lack of septate-nodulose leaf sheaths (Welsh 1974); long, mostly underground, reddish leaf sheaths; and usually curled basal leaves.

Figure 1: Illustration of Carex sabulosa

Figure 1: Illustration of Carex sabulosa.

Habit drawing from Cody 2000, by permission; perigynia and scale drawing by Lora May Richards, Douglas Ecological Consultants Ltd.

Figure 2: Carex sabulosa on the Takhini River South Dunes

Figure 2: Carex sabulosa on the TakhiniRiversouth dunes.

Photo by S.J. Smith, Douglas Ecological Consultants Ltd.