The specific epithet sartwellii is named in honor of Henry Parker Sartwell, 1792-1867, who discovered this species (Fernald 1970). Sartwell was from Penn Yan, New York and was a prolific collector (Wiegand and Eames 1926). Many of Sartwell's specimens have no locality information beyond "Penn Yan". Unfortunately, this locality information appears to indicate simply where he lived and not where the specimens were actually collected.
There are three known populations and fewer than ten historical populations. This is a plant of fens and calcareous wetlands, a limited and threatened habitat. Some of the historical populations apparently still have appropriate habitat and should be surveyed. Some of the populations may be threatened by various invasive species, particularly Phragmites. A few sites have been lost to muck farming and other types of development.
There are four populations that have been seen in recent year but trends in population size is unclear. Most of these extant populations appear to be healthy and robust and there is no indication that there is a decline. Therefore, short-term trends are not clear but may indicate that this species is stable in New York.
There are two populations that are believed to be extirpated. One as a result of agriculture and the other as a result of urban development. Three populations have been known for about 90 years but clear trends in these populations are unknown. These three populations currently appear to be healthy and may be stable. One population was first discovered in 1990. This population was probably over looked in the past. Approximately, an additional seven populations are only known from historical records. It is unknown if these populations are still extant. Overall, long term trends appear to at least indicate a moderate decline in populations.
One population is potentially threatened by an adjacent gravel mine and encroaching residential development. Another populations occurs adjacent to a railroad line. There is the potential that herbicide spraying to keep the railroad grade open could negatively impact this population. Changes in hydrology including flooding could also negatively impact populations.
An attempt should be made to gain protection of the one population that is adjacent to a gravel mine and encroaching residential development. Herbicide spraying should be prevented adjacent to the one population that is near a railroad. The hydrological regimes at all populations should be monitored and maintained where necessary.
All historical populations should be surveyed. Where possible, accurate population size in area should be measured.
Carex sartwellii occurs in rich fens, sedge meadows, and rich swamps sometimes adjacent to ponds. It occurs in areas without any woody plant canopy to partly shaded wet forested habitat. All sites in New York are strongly calcareous and wet (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006). Fens, wet prairies, sedge meadows, marshes, wet, open thickets, open swamps, stream, pond, and lakeshores, ditches, often in shallow water (Reznicek and Catling 2002). Wet open sandy or mucky ground, often calcareous, including marshes and meadows, lake shores, and thicket borders on dolomite pavement (Voss 1972). Calcareous bogs, marshes, and swales (Fernald 1970).
Carex sartwellii mostly occurs in north cental New York but ranges west to Buffalo and north to St. Lawrence County. It is at the eastern edge of its range in New York.
Carex sartwellii occurrs from the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, and Idaho east to Quebec, New York, and Pennsylvania. It is major wetland species in the Midwest and West but is local and uncommon in the east (Reznicek and Catling 2002).
Sartwell's sedge is a tall grass-like perennial that grows in large patches. Stems 30-120 cm or slightly taller occur singly along the rhizomes. Leaves occur along these stems and are 2.5-4.6 mm wide. Many of these stems do not develop flowers. At the top 2.5-9.0 cm of some of the stems are flower/fruit clusters (spikes). The spikes are numerous and densely arranged. Each spike is composed of either all male flowers, all female flowers, or have male flowers above and female flowers below. Fruits (perigynia) are 2.5-4.6 mm long (Reznicek and Catling 2002).
Carex sartwellii is long rhizomatous and colonial. Many of the stems are often vegetative. The vegetative stems are true stems with nodes unlike many other Carex species. Reproductive culms are (30-)40-120 cm tall. Leaf sheaths are green veined and herbaceous on the ventral surface except the apices of the distal sheaths are hyaline and prolonged. The inflorescences are 2.5-7.0(-9.0) cm long and composed of 9-37 densely arranged androgynous or unisexual sessile spikes. Perigynia are (2.5-)2.8-4.1(-4.6) mm long (Reznicek and Catling 2002).
It is easiest to identify C. sartwellii when it has immature to mature fruits but patches can be largely vegetative. It is possible to identify this species vegetatively although reproductive material is helpful.
The closely related C. disticha is a rare introduction in southern Quebec and Ontario. It differs in having larger perigynia (3.8-)4.0-5.5(-6.1) mm long and lower spikes usually much larger than middle spikes versus larger perigynia (2.5-)2.8-4.1(-4.6) mm long and lower spikes only slightly if at all larger than middles spikes in C. sartwellii (Reznicek and Catling 2002). Carex praegracilis has been misidentified as C. sartwellii in Michigan (Voss 1972). It differs in having vegetative stems with leaves clustered at the base of the plant vs. leaves spread along the culms for C. sartwellii (Voss 1972, Reznicek and Catling 2002).
Carex sartwellii starts to fruit in June and fruits persist until about mid-July. Therefore, the best time to survey for this species is from June to mid-July.
The time of year you would expect to find Sartwell's Sedge fruiting in New York.
Carex sartwellii Dewey
Carex sartwellii is the only North American native member of section Holarrhenae. The Euasian C. disticha, which is the only other member of section Holarrhenae, is a rare introduction in North America (Reznicek and Catling 2002).
Reznicek, A.A. and P.M. Catling. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Holarrhenae DÃ¶ll) Pax. Pages 301-302 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.
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.
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
Wiegand, K.M. and A.J. Eames. 1926. The flora of the Cayuga Lake Basin, New York. Cornell University, Agricultural Experiment Station, Memoir 92, Ithaca, NY. 491 pp + map.
Information for this guide was last updated on: November 4, 2022
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Carex sartwellii. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/sartwells-sedge/. Accessed March 23, 2023.