Tinged Sedge

Carex tincta (Fern.) Fern.

Carex tincta line drawing
Downloaded from Texas A&M Cyber Sedge

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
Historical (Possibly extirpated) in New York - Missing from New York; known only from historical records (more than 30 years ago), but still some possibility of rediscovery upon further searching.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently or Demonstrably Secure globally - Uncommon to common 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 either G4 or G5.


Did you know?

The specific epithet tincta means tinged (Fernald 1970) and is probably in reference to the dark brown scales that subtend the fruits (perigynia).

State Ranking Justification

There are no known populations and only two historical locations ever reported from New York. This was last reported from New York in 1936.

Short-term Trends

No populations have been seen in over 70 years so short term trends are unknown.

Long-term Trends

All three populations of C. tincta from New York are only known from historical records. One of these populations was searched for without success. This population is considered extirpated because the open habitat that the plant used to occur in has undergone succession and is no longer present. There is a chance that when the habitat opens again from a natural or human created disturbance, C. tincta will germinate from the seed bank. A second population was also searched for without success. At this site there is abundant potential habitat and the population may still be extant. Overall, long term trends are not clear but may indicate a decline.

Conservation and Management


There are currently no threats known to populations of C. tincta.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Clearing should be conducted at the one historical population where the habitat has undergone succession and C. tincta seeds may be dormant in the seed bank.

Research Needs

Survey work needs to be conducted or repeated at all three historical populations. One of these populations was deemed extirpated because the habitat had undergone succession and was no longer good habitat for C. tincta. At this site, survey work does not need to be done again until some disturbance event occurs at this site.



Carex tincta occurs on mountain slopes and in open graminoid dominated summits (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006). Dry to seasonally moist grassy meadows, roadsides, open woods (Mastrogiuseppe et al. 2002). Sandy soil of fields and open woods (Haines and Vining 1998). Rich woods, thickets, and fields (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Mowed roadside/pathway*
    A narrow strip of mowed vegetation along the side of a road, or a mowed pathway through taller vegetation (e.g., meadows, old fields, woodlands, forests), or along utility right-of-way corridors (e.g., power lines, telephone lines, gas pipelines). The vegetation in these mowed strips and paths may be dominated by grasses, sedges, and rushes; or it may be dominated by forbs, vines, and low shrubs that can tolerate infrequent mowing.
  • Pastureland*
    Agricultural land permanently maintained (or recently abandoned) as a pasture area for livestock.
  • Pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit* (guide)
    A community that occurs on warm, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is non-calcareous (such as quartzite, sandstone, or schist), and the soils are more or less acidic. This community is broadly defined and includes examples that may lack pines and are dominated by scrub oak and/or heath shrubs apparently related to fire regime.
  • Red pine rocky summit* (guide)
    A community that occurs on cool, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is non-calcareous and the soils are more or less acidic. Red pine is typically dominant, but may also be codominant with red oak and/or white pine.
  • Rocky summit grassland* (guide)
    A grassland community that occurs on rocky summits and exposed rocky slopes of hills. Woody plants are sparse and may be scattered near the margin of the community. Small trees and shrubs may be present at low percent cover.
  • Successional northern sandplain grassland* (guide)
    A meadow community that occurs on open sandplains that have been cleared and plowed (for farming or development), and then abandoned. This community is usually dominated by low, dry turf of sedges and grasses less than 30 cm (12 inches) tall, and include patches of open sand and patches of soil covered with mosses and lichens.
  • Successional old field*
    A meadow dominated by forbs and grasses that occurs on sites that have been cleared and plowed (for farming or development), and then abandoned or only occasionally mowed.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Bromus inermis (smooth brome)
  • Carex scoparia var. scoparia


New York State Distribution

Carex tincta is known, at least historically, from eastern New York along the border with Massachusetts and Connecticut, and from one population in northern New York.

Global Distribution

Carex tincta is common in parts of New England but is considered rare and local throughout most of the rest of its range. It occurs from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick west to Quebec, Ontario, and Wisconsin south to Illinois, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (Mackenzie 1931-1935, Mastrogiuseppe et al. 2002, New York Natural Heritage Program 2006). Flora North America (Mastrogiuseppe et al. 2002) notes that the Alberta specimens noted by Mackenzie (1931-1935) were misidentified. Mackenzie (1931-1935) and Mastrogiuseppe et al. (2002) do not mention New York as being part of the range of C. tincta but Mackenzie annotated a specimen of C. tincta collected in New York and deposited at the New York State Museum (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006).

Identification Comments

General Description

Tinged sedge is a loosely tufted grass-like perennial. Leaves are strap-like and 2-4 mm wide. Some stems have flowers and fruits towards their apex (reproductive stems) and other lack these structures (vegetative stems). There are usually 3-9, 25-150 cm tall, reproductive stems per clump. Towards the apex of these stems are 4-11 tightly packed, stemless, short cylindrical clusters of flowers / fruits (spikes). The spikes have female flowers above and male flowers below. The female flowers develop into fruits (perigynia) which are relatively flat and have thin wing-like margins. The fruits are 1.4-2.4 mm wide and 3.5-4.7 mm long and gradually taper to a beak at the apex (Mastrogiuseppe et al. 2002).

Identifying Characteristics

Carex tincta is loosely cespitose and short rhizomatous or appears somewhat long rhizomatous in old clumps. Leaf sheaths are papillose and the adaxial surfaces (fronts) are hyaline, sometimes transversely wrinkled, and truncate, U-shaped, or occasionally V-shaped at the summits. Leaf blades are 2-4 mm wide. As with other members of section Ovales, C. tincta possess both true vegetative culms and reproductive culms. The vegetative culms are inconspicuous. There are (3-)5-9 reproductive culms per clump that are 25-85(-150) cm tall. 4-11 spikes occur at the apex of the culms and are gynecandrous and approximate. Pistillate scales are reddish-brown to dark brown and are just shorter than the perigynia they subtend. Perigynia are tan to brown and conspicuously contrast, at least while maturing, with the darker pistillate scales. Perigynia are ovate, (1.4-)1.6-2.4 mm wide, 3.5-4.5(-4.7) mm long, 4-8 veined abaxially, 3-7 veined adaxially, and gradually taper to a beak (Mastrogiuseppe et al. 2002).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Identification of C. tincta is easiest when the plants have immature to mature perigynia. The whole plant is also useful in identification and should be collected.

Similar Species

Carex tincta is a typical member of section Ovales with wing margined perigynia. Three distinctive features of C. tincta are the densely clustered spikes including the proximal ones [proximal internodes 1.5-6(-10) mm long], the relatively short inflorescences which are 1.2-2.5(-3.5) cm long, and perigynia ovate to broadly ovate. The dark brown pistillate scales of C. tincta are also distinctive and contrast with the perigynia as it matures. Other species in section Ovales that occur in New York and share the first three characters, at least occasionally, include C. bebbii, C. scoparia, C. crawfordii, C. molesta, C. adusta, and sometimes C. normalis. Culms of other species produced late in the season may have densely clustered spikes. These culms may be difficult to key to the correct species.

Carex bebbii can be distinguished by its shorter [2.5-3.8 mm long] and narrower [(1.0-)1.2-2.0 mm wide] perigynia which have 0-3 adaxial faint or basal veins. In comparison, C. tincta has longer [3.5-4.5(-4.7) mm long] and wider [(1.4-)1.6-2.4 mm wide] perigynia which have 3-7 adaxial veins.

Carex scoparia and has more consistently ellipsoid spikes which gradually taper at the apices and bases and lanceolate, longer [4.2-6.8 mm long] perigynia. In comparison, C. tincta has broadly ellipsoid spikes which more abruptly taper at the apices and bases and ovate, shorter [3.5-4.5(-4.7) mm long] perigynia.

Carex crawfordii has narrower [0.9-1.3 mm wide] perigynia. In comparison, C. tincta has broader [(1.4-)1.6-2.4 mm wide] perigynia.

Carex molesta has wider [1.8 -3.0 mm wide] and more broadly elliptic to orbicular perigynia bodies. In comparison, C. tincta has narrower [(1.4-)1.6-2.4 mm wide] and broadly ovate to ovate perigynia bodes.

Carex adusta has pistillate scales as long as the perigynia they subtend. In comparison, C. tincta has pistillate scales at least slightly shorter than the perigynia they subtend.

Carex normalis has pistillate scales green and white-hyaline and leaf sheaths not papillose and the adaxial surfaces not transversely wrinkled. In comparison, C. tincta has pistillate scales reddish-brown to dark brown and leaf sheaths finely papillose and the adaxial surfaces sometimes transversely wrinkled (Mastrogiuseppe et al. 2002).

Best Time to See

Immature perigynia are formed in early July. These mature and persist through mid-August although later in this season the perigynia are shedding easily. Therefore, the best time to survey for this species is from July through early August.

  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Tinged Sedge fruiting in New York.

Tinged Sedge Images


Tinged Sedge
Carex tincta (Fern.) Fern.

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

Additional Common Names

  • Sedge


  • Carex mirabilis var. tincta Fernald

Comments on the Classification

Carex tincta is in section Ovales which is a large and notoriously difficult section of Carex (Mastrogiuseppe et al. 2002). Carex tincta is lumped under C. normalis or is considered a possible hybrid of C. normalis with C. foenea by Gleason and Cronquist (1991). Carex tincta was originally described by Fernald as a variety of C. normalis (as C. mirabilis). This is probably why Gleason and Cronquist (1991) chose to lump C. tincta under C. normalis. Carex tincta is a distinctive member of section Ovales and is recognized at the species level (Mastrogiuseppe et al. 2002).

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Mastrogiuseppe, J., P.E. Rothrock, A.C. Dibble, and A.A. Reznicek. 2002. Carex Linnaeus sect. Ovales Kunth. Pages 332-378 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.

Haines, A. and T.F. Vining. 1998. Flora of Maine, A Manual for Identification of Native and Naturalized Vascular Plants of Maine. V.F.Thomas Co., Bar Harbor, Maine.

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. 1931-1935. Cariceae. North American Flora 18: 1-478.

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.

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


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: May 31, 2006

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Carex tincta. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/tinged-sedge/. Accessed June 23, 2024.