Carex limosa (Mud Sedge)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bog Sedge, Shore Sedge, Candle-lantern sedge
Family:Cyperaceae (Sedge)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; wet; bogs, fens, wet meadows, shores
Fruiting season:June - July
Plant height:8 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Spikes: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of spikes] Separate staminate (male) and pistillate (female) spikes, with a single staminate spike ¼ to 1¼ inches long at the tip of the stem. Below the staminate spike are 1 to 3 slender-stalked pistillate spikes, ¼ to ¾ inch long, widely spaced and arising singly from the nodes, occasionally with a few staminate flowers at the tip (androgynous). At the base of the lowest pistillate stalk is a leaf-like bract that does not overtop the terminal spike; the bracts on any upper spikes are bristle-like or absent altogether. Stalks are mostly longer than the associated spike and initially erect to ascending, typically becoming drooping.

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

[photo of reddish stolons and yellow, hairy roots] Leaves are alternate, blue-green, with up to 3 short, erect to ascending leaves all near the base, 1 to 2.5 mm wide, folded lengthwise or the edges rolled in (involute). Stem leaf sheaths are reddish to translucent white with red spots. Stems are single, slender, mostly erect, sharply 3-sided, rough along the angles, elongating up to 2 feet at maturity and longer than the leaves. Bases are wrapped in a scaly, reddish-brown sheath, without any old leaf remains or basal rosette, though vegetative shoots produce long, scaly, reddish-brown horizontal stems (stolons), rooting at the nodes and forming colonies. Roots are yellowish to orange and densely hairy.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of mature spike] Fruit develops in late spring to early summer, the pistillate spikes forming clusters of seeds (achenes), each wrapped in a casing (perigynium), subtended by a scale. The empty staminate scales persist after fruit has dropped off. Pistillate spikes each contain 8 to 30 fruits that are overlapping on the stalk but not tightly packed.

[photo of perigynia, scale and achenes] Pistillate scales are oval to egg-shaped, rounded at the tip often with a minute to short taper to a sharp point, chestnut to purplish brown with a green midrib, about as wide as the perigynia and more or less as long, covering most or all of it. Perigynia are 2.5 to 4 mm long, 1.8 to 2.6 mm wide, obscurely veined, hairless, pale blue-green, loosely wrapping the achene, the body oval-elliptic with a minute beak at the tip. Achenes are 2 to 2.3 mm long, 3-sided in cross-section, and may be dented or misshappen to some degree.


Carex limosa is wetland sedge found through northern and central Minnesota.

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 limosa is one of two members of the Limosae section in Minnesota; some of the section's common traits are: roots with a dense covering of yellowish hairs, rhizomatous, bases red-brown or purple-brown, leaves 1 to 4 mm wide and V-shaped in cross-section when young, 2 to 5 spikes on slender stalks, terminal spike either all staminate or with a few perigynia at the tip (gynecandrous), lateral spikes either all-pistillate or with a few staminate flowers (at the tip or base), perigynia 5 to 7-veined, inflated, broadly elliptic to egg-shaped, 3-sided achenes, growing in wet habitats.

Carex limosa is distinguished from all other Minnesota sedges by the combination of: roots with a dense covering of yellowish hairs, colony-forming from long stolons, stems single with only 2 or 3 short, narrow leaves near the base, single, all-staminate terminal spike, 1 to 3 pistillate spikes on drooping stalks, perigynia oval-elliptic, blue-green and obscurely beaked, pistillate scales about as wide and long as the perigynia and completely covering it or nearly so. Carex magellanica is the only other sedge in Minnesota with the yellowish, hairy roots, and is distinguished by its leafier stems, longer floral bracts, and pistillate scales much narrower and longer than the perigynia and which fall off before the perigynia mature. Of note is that for all the C. limosa specimens examined, every one had achenes that were misshapen to some degree, regardless of where they came from. Of all our printed and online references, this particular characteristic was only mentioned once (then I subsequently lost the bookmark). Curious.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lake and St Louis counties.


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

Posted by: J.D. Butcher - Marshall County
on: 2022-02-11 22:31:41

This is my favorite sedge. It is very cool, like a Victorian lantern

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