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

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

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)
State Protection
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Global Conservation Status Rank


Did you know?

Carex meadii is named for its discoverer Samuel Barnum Mead who lived from 1799-1880.

State Ranking Justification

There are no known populations within New York, but we do have five historical sites. This plant was last seen here in 1924.

Short-term Trends

This species has not been seen in New York since probably 1924, so no short term trends are known.

Long-term Trends

Two of the five known sites from the state are at locales where the habitat has been destroyed by urban development. The species has also not been seen in the state since probably 1924. At the same time, relocation of historical populations is hindered by locale information being imprecise and obscure.

Conservation and Management

Research Needs

As this species is known to be very similar to Carex tetanica as well as some other species, all New York specimens of this sedge should be verified.



Low wet places. The New York Natural Heritage Program has very little information on this species in New York (New York Natural Heritage Program 2005). Calcareous prairies, fens, cedar glades, open woodlands, moist depressions (Rothrock and Reznicek 2002). Wet meadows on diabase or serpentine surfaces (Rhoads and Block 2000). Dry open prairies and meadows (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Calcareous meadows, prairies, and depressions (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities


New York State Distribution

This sedge is known historically from five sites in New York from western New York to central and southern New York.

Global Distribution

This sedge occurs from Rhode Island west to Pennsylvania, Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan south to Georgia, Texas, Arizona, and Mexico (Rothrock and Reznicek 2002). Rothrock and Reznicek (2002) do not list C. meadii from New York. It is unclear why they do not list C. meadii but it may be due to past misidentification of specimens.

Best Places to See

  • No known populations in New York.

Identification Comments

General Description

Carex meadii is a grass-like plant that has widely scattered shoots arising from long deep rhizomes. The leaf blades are gray-green, 7-15 cm long, and 2-7 mm wide. The fruiting stems are 15-60 cm tall. Flowers are clustered into 2-4 elongated spikes along the upper part of the stem.

Identifying Characteristics

This sedge is colonial with long deep rhizomes. The shoots which arise from the rhizomes are widely scattered. The culms have brown proximal sheaths with blades. The inflorescence is 4-25 cm long and 1-1.6 times as long as the proximal bract. It is composed of one terminal staminate spike and 1-3 lateral pistillate spikes. The perigynia are densely arranged on the pistillate spikes, minutely papillose, and have a minute bent beak. This species approaches C. tetanica and can look fairly similar.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Vegetatively, this species is inconspicuous. Due to this and because of the very similar C. tetanica the best time for identification is when the species is in fruit.

Similar Species

Carex tetanica is fairly similar and is known to be difficult to separate from C. meadii in the Great Lakes region. Carex meadii differs in having achenes 1.7-2.2(-2.5) mm wide and ligules 0.4-1.2 times as long as wide compared to achenes 1.2-1.6(-1.8) mm wide and ligules (0.8-)1-2 times as long as wide for C. tetanica. In addition, C. meadii has leaves more grayish green, shorter staminate and proximal pistillate peduncles, thicker spikes, perigynia including the proximal ones densely arranged on the spikes, more ranks of perigynia per spike, and can grow in dryer situations and tends to be a coarser plant (Rothrock and Reznicek 2002). Gleason and Cronquist (1991) state that Carex meadii is "much like [Carex tetanica] and perhaps not sharply distinct."

Carex woodii which is also closely related can be distinguished by its bladeless, purple tinged basal sheaths as well as its superficial rhizomes.

Carex crawei (section Granulares) is also superficially similar, although more distantly related, and can grow in similar habitats as C. meadii. Carex meadii differs in having pistillate spikes on longer peduncles which are mostly along the upper half of the culm; leaf sheaths concave at the tips; perigynia pale greenish to greenish white with more strongly raised nerves and a curved beak; and perigynia never with small yellowish resin glands which are sometimes present in C. crawei (Yatskievych 1999).

Finally, C. conoidea (section Griseae), another more distantly related species, can also be confused for C. meadii. Carex meadii differs in having long horizontal rhizomes; bluntly trigonous culms; leaf sheaths concave at the tips; perigynia with raised nerves; larger perigynia; and pistillate scales with blunter tips and smaller, smooth awns (Yatskievych 1999).

Best Time to See

In New York, Carex meadii is in fruit in June and this is when surveys should occur.

  • Fruiting

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

Mead's Sedge Images


Mead's Sedge
Carex meadii Dewey

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

Additional Common Names

  • Sedge


  • Carex tetanica var. meadii (Dewey) L.H. Bailey

Comments on the Classification

Carex meadii is in section Paniceae. It is known to be difficult to distinguish from C. tetanica in parts of its range although various authors (Mackenzie 1910, Fernald 1970, Gleason and Cronquist 1991, Rothrock and Reznicek in Flora of North America 2002) believe it is or maintain it as a distinct species. Perhaps further work with this species and section Paniceae in general, will reveal new information.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Rothrock, P.E. and A.A. Reznicek. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Paniceae G. Don. Pages 426-431 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.

Mackenzie, K.K. 1910. Notes on Carex VI. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 37(5) 231-250.

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. 2019. 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

Yatskievych, G. 1999. Steyermark's Flora of Missouri, Volume 1. Revised edition. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 22, 2005

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Carex meadii. Available from: Accessed March 20, 2019.

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