Emory's Sedge

Carex emoryi Dewey

Carex emoryi
Stephen M. Young

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 in New York - Very vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 20 populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

The specific epithet emoryi is in honor of William Hemsley Emory, 1811-1887 (Fernald 1970). This sedge is probably overlooked and much more common here than we realize.

State Ranking Justification

There are only three known populations and two historical populations known today, but this sedge is definitely overlooked. More people need to become aware of how to identify this sedge. We do not know how overlooked this really is, but it is probably more common than its current S1 ranking.

Short-term Trends

There are three population that have been seen in recent years. Trends at these populations are unknown although, at least one of these populations has a good number of plants in good quality habitat. Overall, short term trends are unclear.

Long-term Trends

One population was extirpated when the site was flooded for the creation of a reservoir. Another population has not been seen in recent years but surveys have not been conducted to this site and it is unknown if this population is still extant. Two populations were only first seen in 1994. One population has been known to be extant for at least 30 years. It is believed that C. emoryii may be overlooked because of its superficial similarity to other species but currently this is unknown. Overall, long term trends are not clear but indicate a decline.

Conservation and Management


There are no threats at the few known populations.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Currently there is no management actions needed at any populations.

Research Needs

Surveys of the one historical population should be conducted. Additional surveys along large river should also be conducted. A few herbarium specimens should be verified.



Carex emoryi occurs on the edges of large rivers including backwater channels in sandy gravel bars. It is also known from one rich fen in New York (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006). Stream banks, ditches, seeps (Standley et al. 2002). Streambanks and roadside ditches (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Wet ground along rivers and around lakes and ponds (Voss 1972). Swamps, river margins and shores, oftenest in basic or calcareous waters (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Cobble shore* (guide)
    A community that occurs on the well-drained cobble shores of lakes and streams. These shores are usually associated with high-energy waters (such as high-gradient streams), and they are likely to be scoured by floods or winter ice floes.
  • Cobble shore wet meadow* (guide)
    A community that occurs on the cobble shores of lakes and streams where the substrate is moist from seepage or intermittent flooding. These communities are likely to be scoured by floods or winter ice floes, but there is apparently no significant accumulation of pack ice.
  • Rich sloping fen (guide)
    A small, gently sloping wetland that occurs in a shallow depression on a slope composed of calcareous glacial deposits. Sloping fens are fed by small springs or groundwater seepage. Like other rich fens, their water sources have high concentrations of minerals and high pH values, generally from 6.0 to 7.8. They often have water flowing at the surface in small channels or rivulets.
  • Riverside ice meadow* (guide)
    A meadow community that occurs on gently sloping cobble shores and rock outcrops along large rivers in areas where winter ice floes are pushed up onto the shore, forming an ice pack that remains until late spring. The ice scours the meadow, cutting back woody plants.
  • Riverside sand/gravel bar* (guide)
    A meadow community that occurs on sand and gravel bars deposited within, or adjacent to, a river channel. The community may be very sparsely vegetated, depending on the rates of deposition and erosion of the sand or gravel.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Carex buxbaumii (brown bog sedge)
  • Carex sterilis (dioecious sedge)
  • Lysimachia nummularia (moneywort, creeping-Jenny)
  • Oligoneuron ohioense
  • Packera aurea (golden ragwort)
  • Sagittaria latifolia (common arrowhead)
  • Salix eriocephala (heart-leaved willow, Missouri willow)
  • Salix sp.


New York State Distribution

Carex emoryii is known from only a few scattered populations in New York. It is documented from western New York as well as from one population in northeastern New York. There is also a report of this species from Sullivan County in southeastern New York. This species may be overlooked and more common in the state than records indicate. Carex emoryi is at its northeastern edge of its range in New York.

Global Distribution

Carex emoryi occurs from Connecticut and New York west to Ontario, Manitoba, North Dakota, and Wyoming south to New Mexico, Chihuahua and Coahuila states in Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia (Standley et al. 2002).

Identification Comments

General Description

Emory's sedge is a grass-like perennial. It occurs in colonial patches. Bases of the plants are red-brown. Leaves are 3-6 mm wide and their bases are smooth. Stems 30-115 cm tall are terminated by 5-8 cylindrical flower/fruit clusters (spikes). The lower 3-5 spikes are composed of female flowers that develop into fruits. The terminal 2-3 spikes are composed of male flowers. The fruits (perigynia) are green, have 3-5 veins on them, and are 1.7-3.2 mm long with a small beak at their apices (Standley et al. 2002).

Identifying Characteristics

Carex emoryi is long rhizomatous and colonial. Basal leaf sheaths are burgundy, not ladder-fibrillose, and glabrous. Leaf blades are 3-6 mm wide. Ligules are shorter than wide and truncate. Bracts are about the same height as the inflorescences. There are 3-5 lateral pistillate spikes, 2.5-10 cm long and 2-3 terminal staminate spikes. Pistillate scales are as long as the perigynia they subtend. Perigynia are green, veined of both sides, and 1.7-3.2 mm long.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

It is easiest to identify this species when it has almost mature or mature perigynia but the perigynia are not easily shedding. Full specimens including rhizomes and lower leaf sheaths are helpful in identification of this species and should be collected.

Similar Species

Carex emoryi superficially resembles C. stricta, C. haydenii, and C. aquatalis.

Carex stricta differs by having ladder-fibrillose proximal leaf sheaths, usually a densely cespitose habit (although sometimes it can become long rhizomatous), scabrous leaf sheaths, and pistillate scales shorter than the perigynia. In comparison, C. emoryii does not have ladder-fibrillose proximal leaf sheaths, is not cespitose, has glabrous leaf sheaths, and pistillate scales are as long as the perigynia.

Carex haydenii differs by having ladder-fibrillose proximal leaf sheaths, a densely cespitose habit, mostly veinless spotted perigynia, and pistillate spikes 1-5 cm long. In comparison, C. emoryii does not have ladder-fibrillose proximal leaf sheaths, is not cespitose, has veined unspotted perigynia, and pistillate spikes that are 2.5-10.0 cm long.

Carex aquatalis in New York differs by having the proximal bracts much longer than the inflorescences, perigynia veinless, the front (adaxial surfaces) of the sheaths concave, and stomata usually on both surfaces of the leaves. In comparison, C. emoryii has the proximal bracts about equal to the inflorescences, perigynia finely veined, the front (adaxial surfaces) of the sheaths prolonged and convex, and stomata only on the abaxial surfaces of the leaves.

Best Time to See

Carex emoryi starts to produce immature perigynia in June. These mature and persist till late July or perhaps a little longer. Therefore the best time to survey for this species is between mid June and mid July.

  • Fruiting

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

Emory's Sedge Images


Emory's Sedge
Carex emoryi Dewey

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

Additional Common Names

  • Sedge


  • Carex stricta var. elongata (Boeckeler) Gleason
  • Carex stricta var. emoryi (Dewey) L.H. Bailey

Comments on the Classification

Carex emoryi is currently placed in section Phacocystis. It was formerly placed in section Acutae but that section is no longer considered distinct. Carex emoryi is not considered part of the C. stricta subgroup. Most specimens identified as C. aquatalis var. altior are C. aquatalis even though the type of the former is an immature specimen of C. emoryi (Standley 2002).

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Standley, L.A., J. Cayouette, and L. Bruederle. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Phacocystis Dumortier. Pages 379-401 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, NY, 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.

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.

Voss, E.G. 1972. Michigan Flora, Part I. Gymnosperms and Monocots. Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 55 and the University of Michigan Herbarium. Ann Arbor. 488 pp.

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


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 emoryi. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/emorys-sedge/. Accessed May 26, 2024.