Frank's Sedge

Carex frankii Kunth

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

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?

This species is named after Joseph C. Frank (1782-1835) who discovered this species (Fernald 1970).

State Ranking Justification

There are only four known populations that are rather small and two historical popualtions for this wetland sedge that may be confused with Carex squarrosa or Carex typhina. New York appears to be this plant's northeastern range limit. There is the potential that this is overlooked, however Flora of North America states that this is one of "the mostly easily recognized sedge species." There are minor threats that include manipulation to hydrology, changes in water chemistry, invasive species, and direct habitat alterations.

Short-term Trends

All three extant sites were first observed in the 1990's. No work has been done at them since that time so trends at these sites are unknown and therefore overall short term trends are not known.

Long-term Trends

There are at least two historical populations which have not been seen in over 20 years. Surveys have not been conducted at these sites. So, it is unknown if these populations are still extant. The three extant sites known from New York were first documented in the 1990's. These sites may have been overlooked in the past although Carex frankii is very conspicuous and easy to identify. There is one population that appeared as a short term waif near a fill pile. Overall the long term trends are not clear but may indicate an incline.

Conservation and Management


There are minor threats that include manipulation to hydrology, changes in water chemistry, invasive species, and direct habitat alterations.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

One site has some mitigation recommendations that need to be followed up on.

Research Needs

Surveys are needed to historical sites to determine if these sites still have extant populations of C. frankii.



Wet swales, wet fields/meadows, marshes, road sides, and adjacent to a freshwater tidal swamp (New York Natural Heritage Program 2005). Wet meadows and woods, muddy margins of lakes and ponds, roadside ditches (Ford & Reznicek 2002). Swamps, wet woods, streambanks, and ditches (Rhoads & Block 2000). Swamps and wet woods (Gleason & Cronquist 1991). Calcareous meadows, bottoms and low, rich woods (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Freshwater tidal swamp* (guide)
    A forested or shrub-dominated tidal wetland that occurs in lowlands along large river systems characterized by gentle slope gradients coupled with tidal influence over considerable distances. The swamp substrate is always wet and is subject to semidiurnal flooding by fresh tidal water (salinity less than 0.5 ppt).
  • 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 hystericina (porcupine sedge)
  • Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)


New York State Distribution

Carex frankii occurs in a few scattered sites in central and southeastern New York. It is at the extreme north eastern edge of its range in New York.

Global Distribution

Carex frankii occurs from New York west to Ontario, Michigan, and Nebraska south to Georgia and Oklahoma (Ford and Reznicek 2002).

Identification Comments

General Description

Carex frankii is a tufted perennial grass-like plant. It has strap like leaves that are 2.5-11.5 mm wide. Arising from the center of the leaves at the base of the plants are stems that are 18-80 cm tall. Leaves and elongated flower/fruit clusters come off of these main stems. The flower/fruit clusters are 12-50 mm tall and erect. Fruits are densely packet on these clusters and are 3.5-6 mm long (Ford and Reznicek 2002).

Identifying Characteristics

Carex frankii is a cespitose perennial with leaves 2.5-11.5 mm wide. Bracts that subtend the spikes have blades much longer than the inflorescences. Culms have 3-7(-9) lateral erect spikes which are mostly pistillate with a few staminate flowers at the base and rarely at the apex. Terminal spikes are staminate or sometimes gynecandrous, pistillate, or abortive. Pistillate scales have long scabrous awns that exceed the perigynia bodies. Perigynia are 3.5-6 mm long and horizontal (Ford and Reznicek 2002).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

It is easiest to identify this species when it is in immature to mature fruit.

Similar Species

Carex squarrosa and Carex typhina are two species also in section Squarrosae that are somewhat similar. Both have pistillate scales that are awnless or have a short awn and are shorter than the body of the perigynia. They also have gynaecandrous terminal spikes. In addition, Carex squarrosa has only 1-2 (-3) spikes per culm (Ford and Reznicek 2002).

Best Time to See

The plants start to fruit in mid-July and are in fruit through the end of September or sometimes even later. Toward the end of this season the fruits start to shed Therefore surveys are most successful from mid-July until mid-September.

  • Fruiting

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

Frank's Sedge Images

Images of Similar Species


Frank's Sedge
Carex frankii Kunth

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

Additional Common Names

  • Sedge


  • Carex shortii Steud.
  • Carex stenolepis Torrey [Missouri Botanical Garden's VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database and associated authority files (accessed 28 Dec. 2005) lists the author as Torrey ex Dewey.]

Comments on the Classification

Carex frankii is in section Squarrosae.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

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.

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.

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, 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: February 13, 2006

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Carex frankii. Available from: Accessed May 26, 2024.