Barratt's sedge is named in honor of Joseph Barratt who lived from 1796-1882 (Fernald 1970). The core of this species range is the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
There are currently three known populations. The previous reported historical locations have most likely been lost to development. This is a plant of wet soils within fire-maintained pine barrens, a rather rare community type. The known populations are large and within protected landscapes, but few to no additional popualtions will likely be encountered.
Short term trends are not clear but at least two of the known extant populations and perhaps the third are good sized populations in intact appropriate pine-barrens habitat. There is no indication that these populations are declining although exact data on this is not available. Overall, short term trends are not clear but appear to indicate theat C. barrattii is stable in New York.
A few populations are believed to have been extirpated within the past century due to urban development. There are three known extant populations that have been known for at least the past half-century. There are at least three more populations which are only known from historical records. Two of these have been searched for without success. It is unclear if these populations are still extant although, the likely hood is small. Overall, long term trends in New York indicate a decline.
One population is adjacent to a railroad in a wet pine barrens. While the openness created by the railroad has probably been helpful to C. barrattii herbicide spraying to keep the railroad right of way open could negatively impact the population.
Carex barrattii and the habitat it occurs in requires fire. Therefore, appropriate fire management needs to be continued or conducted at all known extant sites. Herbicide spraying at the one known extant site that occurs adjacent to a railroad needs to be avoided.
Surveys of historical populations should be continued until these populations are found or a determination can made that the populations have been extirpated.
Carex barrattii occurs in wet sandy or peaty soils in pine barrens including bogs. In pine barrens it grows in wet depressions and along streams. It is often associated with openings and disturbances such as along fire breaks, trails, roads, and railroads (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006). Bogs, swamps, wet woods, primarily on acidic substrata (Ball 2002). Its natural, undisturbed habitats in the mid-Atlantic are wetland depressions in pine or oak barrens, along the shores of rivers and ponds or in peaty bogs or cedar swamp edges. The habitat often occurs as open grassy savannah-like areas with abundant sunshine. Carex barrattii prefers acid soils, and the soil pH where the species occurs is less than five. Carex barrattii also occurs in a variety of disturbed or artificially maintained habitats such as power line rights-of-way, abandoned cranberry bogs, and railroad embankments (J. C. Ludwig, personal communication in Sharp 2001). Wet ground, especially in pine-barren swamps near the coast (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Peaty swamps, pinelands, and wet woods (Fernald 1970).
In New York, C. barrattii is known only from western and central Long Island. Many of the populations in this area are believed to have been extirpated by urbanization. There is a voucher specimen that says "Yates Co., NY." This specimen is believed to have been collected by S.H. Wright and it is suspected that the "locality" information is simply where Wright lived and not where he collected this specimen.
Carex barrattii is rare and scattered throughout most of its range. Its center of abundance is in the New Jersey pine barrens where there are scores of populations. Outside of this area it is very infrequent or rare with most other states having at most a few extant populations. It is known, at least historically, from Connecticut south along the coastal plain to North Carolina. It is also known inland at a few disjunct sites with plants of coastal plain affinities including western Virginia, southwestern North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, south-central Tennessee, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama (Ball 2002, New York Natural Heritage Program 2006, Weakley 2006).
Barratt's sedge is a loosely clumped grass-like perennial that occurs in patches. Its roots are fuzzy and yellow. Leaves are strap-like, 2-5 mm wide, and curled under on the edges. Stems are 20-90 cm tall and much exceed the leaves. At the apex of the stems are narrowly cylindrical clusters of male flowers. Also towards the apex of the stems are 2-4 secondary stems which branch off of the main stems. At the apex of these secondary stems are cylindrical flower/fruit clusters (spikes). Usually these spikes are mostly composed of densely arranged female flowers with a few male flowers towards the apex of the spikes. The female flowers develop into fruits (perigynia) which are 2.5-3.5 mm long (Mackenzie 1931-1935, Ball 2002).
Carex barrattii is loosely cespitose and long rhizomatous. It has roots with dense yellow tomentum like other members of section Limosae. Basal leaf sheaths of reproductive culms are bladeless and become filamentose as they mature. Upper leaf blades are 2-5 mm wide, revolute, and light-green to glaucous when young. Culms are 20-90 cm tall with bracts shorter than the inflorescences. The terminal spikes are staminate and 20-50 cm long. The lateral spikes are usually androgynous with the flowers densely arranged. Pistillate scales are 2.4-4.0 mm long and black to brownish. Perigynia are 2.5-3.5 mm long and rounded at the apex with a very short abrupt beak 0.1-0.5 mm long (Mackenzie 1931-1935, Ball 2002).
Carex barrattii is easiest to identify when it has immature to mature perigynia. At times, especially when plants become shaded, most individuals will only be vegetative making identification more challenging.
Carex barrattii is a distinctive sedge. Two other species in section Limosae (C. magellanica and C. limosa) occur in New York. These are perhaps superficially similar. Carex limosa differs in having pistillate scales that are wider than the perigynia they subtend and vegetative shoots which elongate, become prostrate, and act as stolons. In comparison, C. barrattii has pistillate scales narrower then the perigynia they subtend and vegetative shoots which do not function as stolons. Carex magellanica differs in having proximal bracts equal to or longer that the inflorescences and terminal staminate spikes 7-20 mm long. In comparison, C. barrattii has proximal bracts shorter than the inflorescences and terminal staminate spikes 20-50 mm long.
Carex barrattii starts to produce immature perigynia in late May. These mature and persist into early July or sometimes a little later. Towards the end of this season the perigynia are starting to shed easily. Therefore, the best time to survey for this species is June.
The time of year you would expect to find Barratt's Sedge fruiting in New York.
Carex barrattii Schwein. & Torr.
Carex barrattii is currently placed in section Limosae (Ball 2002) although, Gleason and Cronquist (1991) placed it in section Scitae. All members of section Limosae have at least some dense yellow tomentum on the roots.
Ball, P.W. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Limosae (Heuffel) Meinshauser. Pages 416-419 in Flora of North America Editorial Committee (editors), Flora of North America, north of Mexico, Volume 23, Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae (in part): Cyperaceae. Oxford University Press, New York, New York, USA. 608pp + xxiv.
Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.
Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.
Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.
Mackenzie, K.K. 1931-1935. Cariceae. North American Flora 18: 1-478.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.
Sharp, Penelope C. 2001. Carex barrattii Schwein. and Torr. (Barratt's Sedge) Conservation and Research Plan. New England Wild Flower Society, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA.
Weakley, A.S. 2006. Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia. Working draft of January 17, 2006. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. 1026pp. Currently published by the author and available on the web at (http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm).
Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York
Information for this guide was last updated on: May 21, 2006
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Carex barrattii. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/barratts-sedge/. Accessed February 5, 2023.