Short-beaked Beak Sedge

Rhynchospora nitens (Vahl) Gray

Rhynchospora nitens in fruit
Robert Zaremba

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
Apparently Secure globally (most likely) - Conservation status is uncertain, but most likely uncommon 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 a firm conservation status.


Did you know?

The genus name Rhynchospora is derived from the Greek rhynchous, a snout, and spora, a seed, and refers to the beaked fruit characteristic of this genus (Fernald 1950).

State Ranking Justification

There are seven existing populations. Three of them consist of multiple, hydrologically connected ponds. The other four populations are small. There are three additional populations from the early 1900s that have not been resurveyed.

Short-term Trends

Populations seen in the 1980s and 1990s were surveyed again in 2005 and almost all populations were relocated. It is difficult to obtain exact short-term trends because this pondshore species' numbers are tied to water level fluctuations.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trend appears stable. More intensive surveys have found a few new populations since the 1980s beyond those that were originally known.

Conservation and Management


Some ponds have seen too much development along the shoreline which threaten populations with direct disturbance by trampling and ATV use. The invasion of Phragmites is also a threat to a few populations.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

The pondshores need to be protected from direct disturbance by ATVs and excessive trampling. Exotic invasive species must be prevented from colonizing the shores and any existing populations must be eliminated. A natural buffer of at least 200 feet should be established around the ponds to prevent excessive runoff and pollution events.



This beakrush occurs on the sandy or mucky margins and dried bottoms of coastal plain ponds (New York Natural Heritage Program 2012). Wet sandy soil and bogs (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Wet sands and peats (Fernald 1950).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Coastal plain pond shore (guide)
    The gently sloping shore of a coastal plain pond with seasonally and annually fluctuating water levels. Plants growing on the pond shore vary with water levels. In dry years when water levels are low there is often a dense growth of annual sedges, grasses, and herbs. Submerged and floating-leaved aquatic plants, such as fragrant waterlily and pondweeds, may become "stranded" on the exposed shore. In wet years when the water level is high only a few emergents and floating-leaved aquatics may be noticeable. T

Associated Species

  • Agalinis purpurea (purple agalinis)
  • Bidens tripartita
  • Cladium mariscoides (twig-rush)
  • Coreopsis rosea (pink coreopsis, pink tickseed)
  • Cyperus dentatus (toothed flat sedge)
  • Drosera filiformis (thread-leaved sundew)
  • Drosera rotundifolia (round-leaved sundew)
  • Eleocharis equisetoides (horsetail spike-rush)
  • Eleocharis obtusa
  • Eleocharis robbinsii (Robbins's spike-rush)
  • Euthamia caroliniana (slender flat-topped-goldenrod)
  • Fimbristylis autumnalis (autumn fimbry)
  • Gratiola aurea (golden hedge-hyssop)
  • Hypericum mutilum
  • Juncus militaris (bayonet rush)
  • Juncus pelocarpus (brown-fruited rush)
  • Linum striatum (rigid yellow flax)
  • Lycopus amplectens (clasping bugleweed, clasping water-horehound)
  • Nymphaea odorata
  • Panicum verrucosum
  • Polygala cruciata (cross-leaved milkwort)
  • Rhexia virginica (Virginia meadow-beauty)
  • Rhynchospora capillacea (hair beak sedge)
  • Rhynchospora macrostachya (tall horned beak sedge)
  • Rhynchospora scirpoides (long-beaked beak sedge)
  • Scleria muehlenbergii (Muhlenberg's nut sedge)
  • Utricularia purpurea (purple bladderwort)
  • Xyris difformis
  • Xyris smalliana (Small's yellow-eyed-grass, large yellow-eyed-grass)


New York State Distribution

This wetland sedge is only known from Suffolk County, Long Island.

Global Distribution

This plant is most common in Florida with scattered populations west to Alabama and Mississippi, becoming more rare in Louisiana and East Texas. Its range also extends north along the coast from South Carolina to Long Island and Massachusetts. It is rare north of South Carolina. There are disjunct populations in the Midwest where is rare in southern Michigan and northern Indiana.

Identification Comments

General Description

Short-beaked beakrush is a small tufted annual plant that grows 1-6 dm tall. The leaf blades are 1-3 mm wide. On the upper stem there are open clusters of 3-6 pedunculate ovoid spikelets at the end of the stem and branches. The thin, 1-nerved, ovate, acute scales are numerous and each one contains a perfect flower. The achenes are 0.7-1 mm long, a little wider than long, with strong transverse ridges. The tubercle is very short, only as wide as the fruit and closely appressed to it (FNA 2002).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

The identification of this species can only be confirmed when it is in fruit.

Similar Species

Rhynchospora scirpoides, long-beaked beakrush, is almost identical and occurs in the same habitat but the achene is finely rough and and not coarsely ridged and the tubercle is beaked with a long sword-shaped persistent style (FNA 2002).

Best Time to See

The best time to identify this species is late July through September.

  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Short-beaked Beak Sedge fruiting in New York.

Short-beaked Beak Sedge Images


Short-beaked Beak Sedge
Rhynchospora nitens (Vahl) Gray

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

Additional Common Names

  • Bald-rush


  • Psilocarya nitens (Vahl) Wood

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. Corrected printing (1970). D. Van Nostrand Company, 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.

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

Wunderlin, R.P. 1998. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida. University Press of Florida: Gainesville, Florida. 806 pp.


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Stephen M. Young

Information for this guide was last updated on: September 6, 2012

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