The specific epithet typhina refers to cat-tails (Fernald 1970) perhaps due to the resemblance of the spikes of Carex typhina to the spikes of cat-tails (the plant not Whiskers).
There are six known populations but only one has more than a hundred plants. Twenty-two historical locations need additional surveys. One may jump to the conclusion that this sedge is overlooked, however, it appears to be rare throughout the northeastern U.S. and adjacent Canada. This plant is typically found as small populations within wet woods and may be subject to hydrological changes, invasive species, or land-use changes.
Most of the populations that have been observed within the past 20 years have only been surveyed once so the short term trends are unknown.
There are at least 9 populations (mostly from Queens, Bronx, and Kings Counties) that are believed to be extirpated mostly due to urban development. An additional 10 populations have not been seen in over 50 years but these populations have not been looked for or the location information is not precise so it is unclear if these populations are still extant. There are 8 extant populations most of which have only recently been found. As with many Carex species these populations were probably overlooked in the past. Over the long term Carex typhina appears to be declining in New York.
Potential threats include invasive species, residential and commercial development, trampling, and road work.
Coordination with the DEC at one site is needed to protect a population. At this site the population is close to a parking area and needs to be protected from trampling. In addition, work on the parking lot or adjacent road should be done with awareness of the need to maintain the hydrology as well as not directly cause the extirpation of the population.
Other management needs include monitoring logging operations and monitoring an adjacent development project.
Further inventory work is needed at historical sites. In addition, follow up at extant sites will be helpful to fully asses these populations and how they may be changing.
Carex typhina occurs in floodplain forests, vernal pools in forests, wet forests, swamps, marshes, sedge dominated meadows, and flats along rivers (New York Natural Heritage Program 2005). Wet woods (Ford and Reznicek 2002). Moist or wet woods and marshes (Gleason & Cronquist 1991). Calcareous meadows and wooded bottomlands (Fernald 1970).
Carex typhina occurs scattered throughout most of New York although it is mostly restricted to the southern and eastern fringes of the state. Most of the C. typhina populations are or were formally known from southeastern New York, including Long Island. Carex typhina also occurs in a few of the southern most counties in central and western New York although the western most population is believed to have been extirpated. There is one report from northern central New York. It also occurs in the northeastern part of the state in the Champlain valley. Carex typhina is near the northern boundary of its range in New York.
Carex typhina occurs from Maine west to Quebec, NY, Ontario, and Wisconsin south to Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas (Ford and Reznicek 2002).
Carex typhina is a tufted, perennial, grass-like plant. It has strap-like leaves that are 3.9-8.7 mm wide. Arising from the leaves at the bases of the plants are stems that are 30-80 cm tall. Leaves and secondary branches with flower/fruit clusters occur on the main stems. The fruit clusters are erect with the fruits densely crowded. Fruits are 5.5-7.8 mm long (Ford & Reznicek 2002).
Carex typhina is a cespitose perennial. The leaves are glabrous and 3.9-8.7 mm wide. There are (0-)1-3(-5) lateral pistillate spikes which are 1.5-5 cm long. The terminal spike is gynecandrous. Pistillate scales do not have awns and are shorter than the body of the perigynia. Perigynia are appressed to ascending, 5.5-7.8 mm long with a sparsely scabrous beak. Achenes are 1.2-1.9 times as long as wide. Styles are deciduous and straight (Fernald 1970, Ford & Reznicek 2002).
Carex typhina is easiest to identify when the perigynia are just immature or mature but not yet shedding heavily.
Carex squarrosa is somewhat similar. It differs in having 1-2(-3) spikes (including the terminal one), lower perigynia spreading to reflexed, styles persistent and curved, and achenes 1.9-2.5 times as long as wide.
Carex frankii (which is rare in NY) is also somewhat similar to C. typhina. Carex frankii has the terminal spikes usually staminate although they can be gynecandrous, pistillate, or abortive. In addition, C. frankii has pistillate scales with long awns that are larger than the body of the perigynia (Ford & Reznicek 2002).
The plants start to go to fruit in late June and the fruits persist on the plants through at least mid October but toward the end of this season they are shedding heavily. Early on in this season the fruits are quite immature. So, surveys are most successful from mid-July till mid-September. Adjustments should be made depending on where in the state surveys are being conducted.
The time of year you would expect to find Cat-tail Sedge fruiting in New York.
Carex typhina Michx.
Carex typhina is in section Squarrosae. There is a hybrid C. x deamii F. J. Hermann which was considered to be a cross between C. typhina and C. shortiana. Current evidence is instead leaning toward this hybrid being a cross between C. squarrosa and C. shortiana (Cochrane 2002, Ford & Reznicek 2002).
Ford, B. A. and A.A. Reznicek. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Squarrosae J. Carey. Pages 518-519 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.
Cochrane, T.S. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Shortianae (L.H. Bailey) Mackenzie. Page 520 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.
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.
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: June 1, 2021
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Carex typhina. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/cat-tail-sedge/. Accessed May 29, 2023.