Carex blanda (Common Woodland Sedge)

Plant Info
Also known as: Charming Sedge
Family:Cyperaceae (Sedge)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; dry to moist soil; deciduous or mixed woodlands, river bottoms, ravines, meadows, thickets, disturbed soils
Fruiting season:May - July
Plant height:6 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Spikes: Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowering spikes] Separate staminate (male) and pistillate (female) spikes, with a single staminate spike 1/3 to about ¾ inch long at the top of the stem. Below the staminate spike are usually 3 (occasionally 4) cylindric, erect to ascending, all-pistillate spikes each up to ¾ inch long, the uppermost 1 or 2 stalkless or short-stalked, typically crowding the staminate spike and sometimes over-topping it. Lower pistillate spikes are longer stalked and arise singly from the nodes on the upper half of the stem. Pistillate spikes each have a leaf-like bract at the base of the stalk that over-tops the terminal spike, the longest bract 6+ inches long; the uppermost bract is much shorter and narrower than the lower bracts.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of sheath and ligule] Leaves are basal and alternate, 2.5 to 15 mm wide, erect to floppy, often over-topping the flowering stem. Stem leaf sheaths loosely wrap the stem and are papery, translucent whitish; bract sheaths are rough along the edges from minute serrations. The ligule (membrane where the leaf joins the sheath) is longer than wide. Leaves are hairless, M-shaped in cross-section when young, and have a prominent, raised midrib on the underside.

[photo of basal sheaths] Bases are wrapped in a green to brown sheath that is not fibrous. Stems are slender, 3-sided and slightly winged along the angles, hairless but rough in the upper plant, ascending to sprawling, rarely erect, and may elongate up to 20 inches at maturity. Not all plants produce flowering stems. Plants typically form dense clumps.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of maturing spikes] Fruit develops in spring through early summer, the pistillate spikes forming clusters of seeds (achenes), each wrapped in a casing (perigynium), subtended by a scale. Pistillate spikes have 4 to 18 fruits, the perigynia ascending, overlapping and somewhat crowded on the spike.

[photo of perigynia, scale and achene] Pistillate scales are lance-oblong, whitish with a green midrib, pointed at the tip or the midrib extending to a rough-textured awn up to 1.5 mm long, and mostly shorter than the perigynia though the awn sometimes extends beyond it. Perigynia are green to yellowish-green, 2.5 to 4 mm long, 1.3 to 2.2 mm wide, 2 ribbed and many-veined (best seen when dry), hairless, inflated, asymmetrically urn-shaped, tapering to a spongy base with an abrupt taper to a short, toothless beak that is a bit off-center and usually strongly bent. Achenes are 2.1 to 3.2 mm long, weakly 3-sided in cross-section, oval-elliptic in outline.


Carex blanda is a common sedge of upland woods but is found in a wide range of soil types and moisture levels, and may spread aggressively in disturbed, shaded soils.

Carex is a large genus, with over 600 species in North America and 150+ in Minnesota alone. They are grouped into sections, the species in each group having common traits. Carex blanda is in the Laxiflorae section; some of its common traits are: usually densely clump forming, short to long rhizomatous, stems slightly winged along the angles, basal sheaths brown or purple and not fibrous, leaves M-shaped in cross-section when young, leaves hairless, widest leaves 5+ mm, 3 to 6 spikes, terminal spike all staminate, lateral spikes all pistillate, lateral spikes subtended by a long-sheathing leaf-like bract, perigynia hairless, generally urn-shaped and tapering to a spongy base, distinctly 8+ veined and abruptly beaked, achenes 3-sided with 3 stigmas, usually growing in woodlands.

Carex blanda is distinguished from other Carex species by the combination of: clump forming, usually densely so, slightly winged stems, basal sheaths green to brown, leaves 2.5 to 15 mm wide, bract sheaths minutely serrated along the edges, usually 4 spikes, terminal spike all staminate, the uppermost 1 or 2 pistillate spikes crowding the staminate spike and may over-top it, perigynia asymmetrical, usually 3 to 4 mm long with 20+ prominent veins (best seen when dry), a short beak that is strongly bent, weakly 3-sided achenes.

C. blanda resembles several other sedges, most notably members of the Griseae section, which have indented veins on mature perigynia where C. blanda veins are raised, and the Granulares section, Carex granularis in particular, which has pistillate spikes up to 1½ inches long, periginia more rounded at the base, fewer and less conspicuous veins, beaks straight to bent, most often found in open habitats, and has sheaths, perigynia and scales often red spotted or streaked. C. blanda is differentiated from other members of the Laxiflorae section by having perigynia with 20+ veins arranged more crowded on the spikes and rough upper stems, where others are more loosely arranged with fewer veins and may have smooth upper stems.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives
  • ReWild Native Gardens

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park and her backyard garden in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Pope and Ramsey counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Carmine P - Minneapolis
on: 2017-10-05 17:06:01

This species plant appeared maybe ten years ago? in a section of my back yard that is under the drip line of the back porch, and is shaded most of the day by a big silver maple. It is very hardy and tough, recovers quickly from being walked on or mowed, and it is spreading happily. I'm glad to know what it is!

Posted by: Andy - Minneapolis
on: 2022-05-26 16:21:42

Growing on N side of fence in sandy soil under a big bur oak and between/under the ostrich ferns. It definitely loves shade. The rabbits won't touch it. Great to find out here that it's a native plant--I've been inadvertently destroying it every year. And yet it keeps popping up in random shaded places. It's a survivor, but I'll let it live from now on. Great to know what it is.

Posted by: Karen Updegraff - Lake County
on: 2022-06-03 15:08:08

I collected a specimen of this from a planting site on state land near Finland (17 of 57-08), thought it was C vaginata but this was an upland site. Not 100% on the ID as the perigynia are not well-developed. But I note that Lake County is out of its supposed range, so, interesting.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-06-04 08:55:58

Karen, waiting for mature perigynia is always recommended for sedge ID.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.