Bent Sedge

Carex styloflexa Buckl.

Carex styloflexa 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 or Demonstrably Secure globally - Uncommon to common 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. More information is needed to assign either G4 or G5.


Did you know?

Styloflexa means with a curved style (Fernald 1970). Since the style is enclosed in the beak of the fruit it naturally follows the curve of the beak.

State Ranking Justification

There are only two known populations and ten historical locations. As a plant near the northern edge of its range, it likely has always been rare within New York. Many of the historical collections are from areas that are now heavily developed.

Short-term Trends

Most populations are only known from specimens collected over 70 or more years ago. However, this does not necessarily indicate a downward trend. As a difficult species to identify, this sedge may be overlooked. More monitoring is needed on the known populations and better searching is needed statewide to determine if more plants are present. Until this information is garnered, no clear assessment can be made on the short-term trends.

Long-term Trends

Six historical populations are believed extirpated due to human development. Another seven populations have not been seen in over 70 years but the exact locations of these populations are unknown. The only two known extant populations were first discovered within the past 20 years. Since many Carex species and especially ones in section Laxiflorae are often overlooked or identified incorrectly, it can be assumed that these two new populations were probably overlooked in the past. Overall, long term trends indicate that this sedge is probably declining in New York, mostly due to habitat alteration. If additional populations are found and protected, this apparent downward trend may be stabilized.

Conservation and Management


One extant population of Carex styloflexa may be threatened by trampling as it is found along an area heavily used for recreational fishing activities. This site should be monitored more to determine the true threat.At least six sites are believed extirpated due to human development. All of these sites are from Long Island and/or the greater metropolitan NYC area. Additional historical populations are known from this area and, although specific locality information is not always available, may also be threatened by habitat destruction caused by residential and/or commercial human development.

Research Needs

Since Carex styloflexa is a member of a notoriously difficult section of Carex it would be good to verify all relevant specimens, especially those from disjunct populations in Rensselaer, Madison, and Tioga Counties.



This sedge mostly occurs in wet habitats often along the edges of streams. It has also been documented in New York from wet pine barrens, damp thickets, swampy woods on the border of a brook, edge of rich woods, and a sphagnum bog. There is also one specimen known from thin soil on limestone ledges in woods. This habitat information is suspect (New York Natural Heritage Program 2005). Wet, sandy, acidic soils, around springs, seeps, and small streams, under deciduous or mixed deciduous-evergreen forests (Bryson and Naczi 2002). Wet woods and bogs, often in sandy or silty soil (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Low woods, wet moss, peaty spring-heads, etc. (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • 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.
  • Floodplain forest (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on mineral soils on low terraces of river floodplains and river deltas. These sites are characterized by their flood regime; low areas are annually flooded in spring, and high areas are flooded irregularly.
  • Pine barrens vernal pond* (guide)
    A seasonally fluctuating pond and its associated wetlands that typically occurs in pine barrens. The water is intermittent, usually a pond in the spring but sometimes losing water through the summer to become a mostly vegetated wetland at the end of the summer. These ponds and wetlands may be small.
  • Red maple-hardwood swamp (guide)
    A hardwood swamp that occurs in poorly drained depressions, usually on inorganic soils. Red maple is usually the most abundant canopy tree, but it can also be codominant with white, green, or black ash; white or slippery elm; yellow birch; and swamp white oak.
  • Red maple-sweetgum swamp* (guide)
    A hardwood swamp that occurs on somewhat poorly drained seasonally wet flats, usually on somewhat acidic soils. Red maple-sweetgum swamps often occur as a mosaic with upland forest communities. Sweetgum is often the dominant tree or may be codominant with red maple. Other codominant trees include pin oak and blackgum.
  • Shallow emergent marsh* (guide)
    A marsh meadow community that occurs on soils that are permanently saturated and seasonally flooded. This marsh is better drained than a deep emergent marsh; water depths may range from 6 in to 3.3 ft (15 cm to 1 m) during flood stages, but the water level usually drops by mid to late summer and the soil is exposed during an average year.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Carex stricta (tussock sedge)
  • Clethra alnifolia (coastal sweet-pepperbush)
  • Mikania scandens (climbing hempweed, climbing boneset)


New York State Distribution

In New York, Carex styloflexa is almost entirely known from the greater New York City area including Nassau and western Suffolk County. There are also a few known populations from the Mohonk Preserve in Ulster County. There is one old record from Tioga and another from Madison County in central New York. In addition, there is a more recent record from Rensselaer County in eastern New York. These three populations are disjunct from the rest of the known occurrences and should be verified for accuracy.

Global Distribution

Carex styloflexa is almost strictly a coastal plain species where it is common on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains from New York (and perhaps Vermont) south to Florida and the eastern third of Texas. It is uncommon inland in the Piedmonts and Appalachian Mountains and occurs as far north as Illinois, historically in Ohio, and possibly Indiana. (In Indiana, past records were misidentified and there is no proof of its existing in the state [Hellmich 1994].) It is possible that the species may range south of the United States border, but Bryson (1994) knows of no such collections and notes that he has never seen it south of the orange-growing region in Florida. The range for C. styloflexa is very similar to the botanically comparable C. striatula; however, C. striatula is more common further inland on the continent (Bryson 1994). On the northeastern end of its range, historic collections were made in Connecticut, one of which was from Seldens Neck in Lyme (Graves 1899, Fernald 1902). The New York sites include historic collections from Long Island and New York City, plus one recent record from Rensselaer Co. Some upstate records are thought to be misidentifications (New York Natural Heritage Program 1994).

Identification Comments

General Description

A grass like plant, this sedge is a densely tufted perennial. It has leaves that arise from the base of the plant and along reproductive stems (culms). The leaves are narrow, green to yellow-green and flat. It has 3-4 clusters of flowers/fruits (spikes) the lowest on stalks arising from the lower 1/3 of the culm. The flowering stems bear one slender male spike above the two to five, wider, few-flowered female spikes (Bryson and Naczi 2002).

Identifying Characteristics

Carex styloflexa has basal sheaths light brown to brown. Leaf blades are 12-14 mm wide according to Bryson and Naczi (2002) while others claim they are narrower (Rhoads and Block (2000) claim they are 2.5-8.7 mm wide and Gleason and Cronquist (1991) claim they are seldom over 7 mm wide). This sedge has reproductive culms 24-82 cm long with one terminal staminate spike that is 1.1-3.5 cm long. It also has 2(-3) lateral pistillate spikes which are 6-9(-15) mm long, the proximal ones arising from the proximal 1/3 of the culm. The peduncles of the pistillate spikes range from 0-12 cm long and the longest is 4.6-14 times as long as the spikes they subtend. The perigynia are densely to loosely arranged on the spikes, 3.5-5.5 mm long, have out curved beaks, and are spreading (Bryson and Naczi 2002).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

The species needs to be in immature to mature fruit for proper identification. Ample specimens are also helpful in correct identification.

Similar Species

Carex styloflexa is a member of the section Laxiflorae which has a few other species in New York (C. albursina, C. blanda, C. gracilescens, C. laxiflora, C. leptonervia, C. ormostachya, and C. striatula). Some of these species are at least superficially similar although C. styloflexa is a fairly distinctive member of this group.

Carex gracilescens and C. ormostachya have red/purple lower sheath bases. Carex albursina often has wider leaves ranging from 10-38(-62) mm wide compared to up to 14 mm wide for C. styloflexa. Carex leptonervia has smaller perigynia (2.2-3.2 mm long compared to 3.5-5.5 mm long for C. styloflexa) and less conspicuous and fewer (8-18 compared to (22-)25-32 for C. styloflexa) nerves on the perigynia. Carex blanda has smaller perigynia (2.5-3.8(-4.1) mm long compared to 3.5-5.5 mm long for C. styloflexa) with an abruptly bent short beak (0.2-0.6 mm long) compared to a more gradually curved longer beak (0.9-1.5 mm long). Carex striatula and C. laxiflora have perigynia ascending compared to spreading; lateral spikes 22-62 and 9-33 mm long respectively compared to 6-9(-15) mm long for C. styloflexa; and they have shorter peduncles of proximal lateral spikes 1.4-3.3(-5.3) times as long as the spikes they subtend compared to 4.6-14 times as long as the spikes they subtend for C. styloflexa) (Bryson and Naczi 2002).

Best Time to See

Carex styloflexa is in immature to mature fruit from late May through June. The best time to survey for this species is during this time period.

  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Bent Sedge fruiting in New York.

Bent Sedge Images


Bent Sedge
Carex styloflexa Buckl.

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

Additional Common Names

  • Sedge

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Bryson, C.T. and R.F.C. Naczi. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Laxiflorae (Kunth) Mackenzie. Pages 431-440 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

Braun, E.L. 1967. The Vascular Flora of Ohio. Volume 1. The Monocotyledoneae: Cat-tails to Orchids. The Ohio State University Press, Cincinnati, Ohio. 464 pp.

Clute, W.N. 1898. The Flora of The Upper Susquehanna and Its Tributaries. Willard N. Clute and Co., Binghamton, New York. 142 pp + xix.

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.

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.

Rhoads, A.F., and W.M. Klein, Jr. 1993. The vascular flora of Pennsylvania: Annotated checklist and atlas. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA. 636 pp.

Rhoads, Ann F. and Timothy A. Block. 2000. The Plants of Pennsylvania, an Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.

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: June 22, 2005

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Carex styloflexa. Available from: Accessed June 23, 2024.