Short's Sedge

Carex shortiana Dewey

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

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. 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
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very 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 sedge is named after Charles Wilkins Short (1794-1863) who discovered this species (Fernald 1970).

State Ranking Justification

This is only known from two locations in central New York, and there is also a third historical location from Long Island. This sedge's native status within New York may be questioned. The two known locations in central New York were first observed in the 1990s. There is speculation these may have arrived within agricultural seed or hay as this species in relatively common in the Ohio River Valley. There is no concert evidence either way to support a native or non-native conclusion. To be conservative and knowing that it is native to Ohio and Pennsylvania, it is being treated as a native species within New York. The populations within New York are small and unprotected. Better management is needed to protect this species and more surveys targetting this species should be conducted throughout central and western New York.

Short-term Trends

This species was recently discovered at two sites in NY. It was either overlooked at these sites in the past or perhaps has recently been introduced at these locales. One of these sites has only been surveyed once. The other site has been documented to be extant over a three year period but trends are not known. Therefore, it is unknown what the short term trends are for this species.

Long-term Trends

There is one historical site in New York which has not been seen in over 100 years. The specimen documenting this occurrence needs to be verified. No surveys have been done to this historical site and it is unknown if it is still extant. The two extant sites are both recent discoveries and may be due to the species being overlook or due to a recent introduction. Therefore long term trends are unclear but may indicate this species has been increasing.

Conservation and Management


Potential threats include the invasive species Rosa multiflora and Rhamnus cathartica. Also, one population is located adjacent to a trail and there is the potential for trampling if trail users go off the trail or if the trail changes course. Another population is located in a roadside ditch and road work could negatively impact this population.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

The impacts of trail users on the one populations that occurs near a trail should be monitored and the trail should be moved if appropriate. Road work at the occurrence that is in a roadside ditch should be conducted so as not to negatively impact the population.

Research Needs

The voucher for the Suffolk County report needs to be verified.



Carex shortiana occurs in moist woods and roadside ditches (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006). Rich woods at bases of slopes, more commonly swampy woods and thickets, wet, open grounds such as spring-fed meadows, prairie swales, pond margins, low depressions, streams, and ditches, particularly characteristic of bottomlands, often in calcareous soils (Cochrane 2002). Calcareous wet meadows and swamps and rich woods (Rhoads and Block 2000). Moist meadows and woods (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Rich woods, bottomlands and meadows, chiefly calcareous (Fernald 1970). In wet soil of stream or pond borders, roadside ditches, and open woods (Braun 1967).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Red maple-hardwood swamp* (guide)
    A hardwood swamp that occurs in poorly drained depressions, usually on inorganic soils. Red maple is usually the most abundant canopy tree, but it can also be codominant with white, green, or black ash; white or slippery elm; yellow birch; and swamp white oak.
  • 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.
  • Successional southern hardwoods*
    A hardwood or mixed forest that occurs on sites that have been cleared or otherwise disturbed. Canopy trees are usually relatively young in age (25-50 years old) and signs of earlier forest disturbance are often evident. Characteristic trees and shrubs include any of the following: American elm, slippery elm, white ash, red maple, box elder, silver maple, sassafras, gray birch, hawthorn, eastern red cedar, and choke-cherry.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Carex gracillima (graceful sedge)
  • Equisetum sylvaticum (wood horsetail)
  • Ostrya virginiana (hop hornbeam, ironwood)
  • Tilia americana
  • Viburnum dentatum var. lucidum (smooth arrowwood)


New York State Distribution

Carex shortiana is only known from three sites in New York. One of these is based on a specimen from Long Island collected in 1904. Given the species range this specimen may be misidentified. The two extant sites in New York are in central-western New York. Both of these extant sites have only recently been found and are disjunct from all other known sites. Therefore, it is possible that this species is not native in New York.

Global Distribution

Carex shortiana is a species of the Midwest. It is common in the western part of its range especially in the Ohio River Valley. It occurs from NY west to Ontario, Indiana, Iowa, and Kansas south to Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006, Cochrane 2002).

Identification Comments

General Description

Carex shortiana is a perennial, tufted grass like plant. It has long strap like leaves that are 4-9 mm wide. Arising from the leaves at the base of the plants are stems that are 30-90 cm long. On these stems are leaves that are usually longer than the stems. Secondary branches with erect cylindrical flower/fruit clusters, 1 to 4 cm long, occur on the upper part of the stems. The fruits (perigynia) are 2-2.6 mm long, wrinkled, and densely crowded in each cluster (Cochrane 2002).

Identifying Characteristics

Carex shortiana is a cespitose perennial. Leaves are glabrous and 4-9 mm wide. Culms are 30-90 cm tall and have (3-)4-6 spikes. Spikes are all usually gynecandrous (or sometimes the lateral are entirely pistillate), cylindric, and 1-4 cm long. The lowest is separated from the others by a long internode. It has an elongate peduncle. Further up the culm the spikes become subsessile to short pedunculate. Perigynia are olive green to brown, dorsally flattened, transversely wrinkled, have only 2 veins, and are 2-2.6 mm long. The perigynia abruptly taper to a 0.2 mm long, bent beak. There are 3 stigmas and the achenes are trigonous (Cochrane 2002).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

It is easiest to identify this species when it is in just immature to mature fruit but the perigynia are not yet shedding heavily.

Similar Species

This is a unique sedge within its own section. The three stigmas and trigonous achenes along with the spikes usually all being gynecandrous is distinctive.

Best Time to See

This species fruits from early June through at least mid-July. Toward the end of this season the perigynia might be shedding. Therefore, surveys are most successful from early June through early July.

  • Fruiting

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

Short's Sedge Images


Short's Sedge
Carex shortiana Dewey

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

Additional Common Names

  • Sedge

Comments on the Classification

Carex shortiana is the only member of the section Shortianae. In the midwest it is known to rarely hybridize with either C. typhina or C. squarrosa to produce the hybrid C. x deamii. It is unclear which of these (C. typhina or C. squarrosa) is the parent but recent information indicates that it may be C. squarrosa (Cochrane 2002).

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

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.

Other References

Braun, E.L. 1967. The Vascular Flora of Ohio. Volume 1. The Monocotyledoneae: Cat-tails to Orchids. The Ohio State University Press, Cincinnati, Ohio. 464 pp.

Cochrane, T.S. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Shortianae (L.H. Bailey) Mackenzie. Page 520 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.

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 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

Weldy, Troy W. and David Werier. 2005. 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, NY. Available on the web at (


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 shortiana. Available from: Accessed July 19, 2024.