Barratt's Sedge

Carex barrattii Schwein. & Torr.

Carex barrattii line drawing
Britton, N.L., and A. Brown (1913); downloaded from USDA-Plants Database.

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

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.

State Ranking Justification

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

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.

Long-term Trends

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.

Conservation and Management


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.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

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.

Research Needs

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).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Coastal plain pond shore* (guide)
    The gently sloping shore of a coastal plain pond with seasonally and annually fluctuating water levels. Plants growing on the pond shore vary with water levels. In dry years when water levels are low there is often a dense growth of annual sedges, grasses, and herbs. Submerged and floating-leaved aquatic plants, such as fragrant waterlily and pondweeds, may become "stranded" on the exposed shore. In wet years when the water level is high only a few emergents and floating-leaved aquatics may be noticeable. T
  • Coastal plain poor fen* (guide)
    A wetland on the coastal plain fed by somewhat mineral-rich groundwater and slow decomposition rates of plant materials in the wetland (and thus develops peat). Plants are generally growing in peat composed primarily of Sphagnum mosses with some grass-like and woody components.
  • Pine barrens shrub swamp* (guide)
    A shrub-dominated wetland that occurs in shallow depressions in the coastal plain, often as the transition zone between a coastal plain pond shore and either pitch pine-scrub oak barrens or pitch pine-oak forest.
  • Pitch pine-oak forest* (guide)
    A mixed forest that typically occurs on well-drained, sandy soils of glacial outwash plains or moraines; it also occurs on thin, rocky soils of ridgetops. The dominant trees are pitch pine mixed with one or more of the following oaks: scarlet oak, white oak, red oak, or black oak.
  • Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens* (guide)
    A shrub-savanna community that occurs on well-drained, sandy soils that have developed on sand dunes, glacial till, and outwash plains.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Aletris farinosa (white colicroot, unicorn-root)
  • Andropogon glomeratus
  • Carex bullata (button sedge)
  • Clethra alnifolia (coastal sweet-pepperbush)
  • Hypoxis hirsuta (yellow star-grass)
  • Lobelia nuttallii (Nuttall's lobelia)
  • Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
  • Quercus ilicifolia (scrub oak, bear oak)
  • Rhynchospora capillacea (hair beak sedge)
  • Rhynchospora capitellata (brownish beak sedge)
  • Viola primulifolia


New York State Distribution

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.

Global Distribution

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).

Identification Comments

General Description

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).

Identifying Characteristics

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).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

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.

Similar Species

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.

Best Time to See

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.

  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Barratt's Sedge fruiting in New York.

Barratt's Sedge Images


Barratt's Sedge
Carex barrattii Schwein. & Torr.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
        • Order Cyperales
          • Family Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Sedge


  • Carex littoralis Schw. 1824 not Krock. 1814

Comments on the Classification

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.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

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.

Other References

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. 2024. 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 (

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 University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: May 21, 2006

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Carex barrattii. Available from: Accessed April 16, 2024.