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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Carex tonsa

Carex tonsa

I'm guessing that I may be more excited about this post than many of you. In a previous lifetime, I was working really hard at becoming an expert in wetland plants. Most Carex (sedges) do like wetlands. But there are a few that prefer dry and sandy habitats. This is one of them, and it grows in my kingdom.

Carex tonsa

We won't do a whole botany lesson here, but one little thing to remember is that "sedges have edges." While they may look like grass if you just glance at them, one quick touch will inform you that the stems are triangular. OK... you've now just identified a sedge!

Carex tonsa

This little cutie is less than three inches tall! I don't know if it is the smallest sedge there is, but it's the smallest one I've ever seen. Those yellow things sticking out of the top are the anthers at the end of the stamens... think male parts.

Carex tonsaHere I've pulled the leaves out of the way, and you can see that there is a different kind of flower down near the base of the plant. That is the staminate (female) flower. In this sedge male and female are on the same stalk, with the male parts above. Other sedges may have them on separate stalks, or with the female parts above. It's one of the characteristics keys use for identification.

It's not a hobby for the faint of heart. Some of the ID's can only be done with a microscope, or at least a good hand lens, and then only when the plant is blooming. I'll try to get some pix through the microscope of the achenes (seeds). Those can be interesting.

There are 169 Carex in Michigan. I wish I knew all of them. I'm working on it, but I haven't counted the ones I recognize. I think I'd be pretty embarrassed.


wenn said...

thx for the interesting info!

Ann said...

sedges have edges, now that's something I can remember. Very interesting, look forward to seeing more

Duxbury Ramblers said...

As you say not for the faint hearted, we have I think approx 180carex, I have seen quite a few in my time the most common around here Carex hirta or hairy sedge, I like remote sedge - Carex remota which grows in our damp woods, to most people looks like a tussock of grass.

Julia said...

I can totally appreciate this post and really like all the plant posts. :) Not boring or weird to me, that's right up my tree.

Happy Easter!!

Sharkbytes said...

Hi wenn- Glad you enjoyed it.

Ann- If you hold on to "sedges have edges" it's good almost 90% of the time!

Carol- we have both of those, but not right where I am. Oh, my! I am so pleased to find another person who doesn't think I'm talking about a shipping company when I say Carex!

Julia- yes, we are sure up some tree together, aren't we?

Ratty said...

I still feel mostly clueless about things like this. But I know that there will be a time while I'm reading something vaguely related and I'll remember this post. Then a lot of this information will click into place for me. It happened this way for me when I finally learned to identify poison ivy. Now I proudly point it out to anyone who's with me when I see it.

Sharkbytes said...

Well, perhaps by the end of this season I will have you so that you recognize the difference between grasses and sedges! This topic will be back!

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