Clustered Sedge

Carex cumulata (Bailey) Fern.

Carex cumulata
Kyle J. Webster

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)
State Protection
Listed as Threatened by New York State: likely to become Endangered in the foreseeable future. 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
Imperiled or Vulnerable in New York - Very vulnerable, or vulnerable, to disappearing from New York, due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines. More information is needed to assign either S2 or S3.
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?

The specific name cumulata refers to the way the spikelets are piled up, like cumulus clouds, at the top of the stem. There are over 15 historical records for the species in New York and we expect to find more new populations as the search for this sedge continues.

State Ranking Justification

The sedge is known from at least 15 populations where it is the dominant plant at several sites. There are several historical populations and lots of habitat that remains unchecked. As a plant that responds well to fire, populations may fluctuate widely depending on the current successional state of the immediate site. There are probably more populations present, particularly on the ridgetops of the Hudson Highlands, Shawangunk Mountains, and Taconic Ridge.

Short-term Trends

Populations that have been surveyed more than once are stable.

Long-term Trends

The number of populations seems to have declined over time but many historical records have not been checked. This sedge is easy to overlook and with more targeted surveys we may find that it is still doing well.

Conservation and Management


There are no current threats.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

For the most part, this plant needs no active management. It does respond well to fire, so an occasional wildfire may prove beneficial.

Research Needs

There are no research needs at this time.



A sedge of open rocky habitats, particularly in damp areas on acidic bedrock or shallow soil. Also found in recently burned areas with shallow soils and exposed bedrock, powerline corridors, open oak or woodlands, heathlands, and various successional habitats (New York Natural Heritage Program 2004). Dry, rocky or sandy soil (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Dry or moist acid soils (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Brushy cleared land*
    A former forest, woodland, or shrubland that has been clearcut or cleared by brush-hog. The cut stumps of trees and shrubs are evident and usually common. There may be a lot of woody debris such as branches and slashings from trees that were logged. Vegetation is patchy, with scattered herbs, shrubs, and tree saplings.
  • Gravel mine*
    An excavation in a gravel deposit from which gravel has been removed. Often these are dug into glacial deposits such as eskers or kames. Vegetation may be sparse if the mine is active; there may be substantial vegetative cover if the mine has been inactive for several years. Near-vertical slopes are used by bank swallows for nesting sites.
  • Mowed roadside/pathway*
    A narrow strip of mowed vegetation along the side of a road, or a mowed pathway through taller vegetation (e.g., meadows, old fields, woodlands, forests), or along utility right-of-way corridors (e.g., power lines, telephone lines, gas pipelines). The vegetation in these mowed strips and paths may be dominated by grasses, sedges, and rushes; or it may be dominated by forbs, vines, and low shrubs that can tolerate infrequent mowing.
  • Pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit (guide)
    A community that occurs on warm, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is non-calcareous (such as quartzite, sandstone, or schist), and the soils are more or less acidic. This community is broadly defined and includes examples that may lack pines and are dominated by scrub oak and/or heath shrubs apparently related to fire regime.
  • Pitch pine-oak-heath woodland* (guide)
    A pine barrens community that occurs on well-drained, infertile, sandy soils. The structure of this community is intermediate between a shrub-savanna and a woodland. Pitch pine and white oak are the most abundant trees.
  • 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.
  • Red cedar rocky summit* (guide)
    A community that occurs on warm, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is calcareous (such as limestone or dolomite, but also marble, amphibolite, and calcsilicate rock), and the soils are more or less calcareous. The vegetation may be sparse or patchy, with numerous lichen covered rock outcrops.
  • Rocky summit grassland (guide)
    A grassland community that occurs on rocky summits and exposed rocky slopes of hills. Woody plants are sparse and may be scattered near the margin of the community. Small trees and shrubs may be present at low percent cover.
  • Shrub swamp (guide)
    An inland wetland dominated by tall shrubs that occurs along the shore of a lake or river, in a wet depression or valley not associated with lakes, or as a transition zone between a marsh, fen, or bog and a swamp or upland community. Shrub swamps are very common and quite variable.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry)
  • Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
  • Danthonia compressa (northern oat grass)
  • Deschampsia flexuosa
  • Fraxinus americana (white ash)
  • Quercus ilicifolia (scrub oak, bear oak)
  • Quercus montana (chestnut oak)
  • Quercus rubra (northern red oak)
  • Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Spiraea tomentosa (steeplebush)
  • Vaccinium pallidum (hillside blueberry)


New York State Distribution

An Ovales sedge with scattered populations in the Champlain Valley, Hudson Valley, and a few remote populations westward. The majority of plants in New York are found in the Shawangunk Mountains, Hudson Highlands, and Taconic Mountains.

Global Distribution

A sedge ranging from Prince Edward Island to Wisconsin, south to New Jersey and Illinois.

Identification Comments

General Description

This is a sedge with many sturdy stems up to 80 cm tall. They stick out at angles above the clump of many narrow leaves. The green to brown conelike flower spikes are rounded at the bottom and always crowded toward the top of the stem. Each individual flower bract (perigynium) is 2-3.4 mm broad and without nerves on the inside face.

Identifying Characteristics

This sedge is characterized by coarse stout culms up to 80 cm tall. The leaf sheaths are loose and green-veined nearly to the summit or with a sharp Y-shaped hyaline area at the summit. The leaf blades are mostly 3-6 mm broad. The inflorescence is compact during the entire growing season with 3-30 stiffly erect and crowded spikes. These spikes are hut-shaped (squared to slightly rounded at the base, broadly tapering to a cone-like top), and green to brown in color. The perigynia are 2-3.4 mm broad and nerveless on the inner face. Once a person has been familarized with this sedge, the combination of habit and habitat make this one of the easier Ovales to identify.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

While this sedge can be identified in flower, entire stems with mature fruit should be collected to allow for easy verification.

Similar Species

This sedge may resemble many of the sedges within the Ovales section, particularly if it is a late season Ovales. In late season, many of the Ovales have congested inflorescences. To distinguish this sedge from others within the Ovales, careful detail should be given to the inflorescences and perigynia. Within New York, the Ovales that are most often confused by Carex cumulata are Carex bicknellii, Carex brevior, Carex merritt-fernaldii, and Carex molesta. All of these have perigynia that are nearly ovate, with a clear membranaceous band near the top of the sheath.

Best Time to See

This sedge begins to appear by mid-May with fruits forming by mid to late June. These fruits begin to separate from the plant by late summer. Surveys should be conducted late June to early September.

  • Fruiting

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

Clustered Sedge Images


Clustered Sedge
Carex cumulata (Bailey) Fern.

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

Additional Common Names

  • Sedge

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 23. Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae (in part): Cyperaceae. Oxford University Press, New York. 608 pp.

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.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

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.

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: February 1, 2023

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Carex cumulata. Available from: Accessed July 19, 2024.