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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Carex buxbaumii Herbaceous Vegetation

Common Name:
Buxbaum's sedge Wet Meadow

Community Description

This vegetation has been found in fens and wet meadows in the mountains of Utah, Idaho, Montana, and western Wyoming at elevations 1700-3200 m. Sites are flat and range from moderately broad valley bottoms to forest openings. Size of wetland is dependent on the presence of permanently saturated soils and it often occurs along streams and in the wettest portion of the wetland complex. Soils are mineral from alluvium with accumulations of well-decomposed organic matter throughout the upper soil horizon (20-50 cm deep). ^Stands have a dense perennial graminoid layer characterized by 25% or more cover of Carex buxbaumii. Carex aquatilis, Carex saxatilis and Carex utriculata are usually present and occasionally codominant. Other common species include Deschampsia caespitosa, Caltha leptosepala, Pedicularis groenlandica, and Ligusticum tenuifolium. Occasional shrubs such as Salix planifolia (= Salix phylicifolia), Vaccinium uliginosum (= Vaccinium occidentale), and Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda (= Pentaphylloides floribunda) may be scattered in the stand. Adjacent are often dominated by sedges such as Carex utriculata and Carex aquatilis. This vegetation is separated from adjacent wetlands by the dominance or codominance of Carex buxbaumii.

This community type occurs in moderately broad valley bottoms, in depressional wetlands like glacial potholes, in peatlands, and on lake plains. Saturated soil conditions persist in the surface peat from mid-spring to mid-summer. Water levels may then drop to the soil surface or, on drier stands, to several decimeters below the surface.

Carex buxbaumii is always dominant in this community, with 25% or greater cover. Carex aquatilis and/or Carex saxatilis are sometimes present and occasionally co-dominant. Other associates include Deschampsia cespitosa, Caltha leptosepala, Eleocharis pauciflora, Senecio cymbalarioides, Pedicularis groenlandica, Ligusticum tenuifolium, Carex lanuginosa, Carex utriculata, Carex lasiocarpa, Carex muricata, Carex livida, Carex nebrascensis, Carex praegracilis, and Carex simulata (Padgett et al. 1989).

Carex buxbaumii is a minor community type in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, western and south-central Montana, Yellowstone National Park, and four disjunct areas of Idaho.

Herbage production varies from low to moderate. Saturated soils are a natural deterrent to livestock grazing. Alteration of hydrology and subsequent dewatering may result in Carex buxbaumii-dominated communities becoming accessible to cattle. Fencing of these relatively small communities is a practical management method for restoration when the hydrologic regime is intact.

Global Rank: G3 State Rank: S3

Global Rank Comments:
This naturally rare wetland vegetation is found in mountains of Utah, Idaho, Montana, and western Wyoming. Although it occurs over relatively wide range, stands are uncommon. Stands typically occur on valley bottoms were the water table is at or near the surface. Soil have a surface organic layer and are saturated seasonally. Habitats are similar to those of the more common Carex aquatilis wetland. These wetlands are threatened by presence of invasive non-native plants, and human activity which results in alterations of natural wetland processes, such as diversions, pumping ground water, roads, and clear cutting. Soils are usually too wet for livestock, but alteration of hydrology causing dewatering may result in increased cattle use and invasion of introduces forage species from pastures.

Community References


95-06-09/ L. Williams

Bourgeron and Engelking 1994, Driscoll et al. 1984, Hansen et al. 1988b, Mattson 1984, Moseley et al. 1991, Moseley et al. 1994, Padgett et al. 1989, Pierce 1986, Pierce and Johnson 1986, Tuhy 1981

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This information is from the:
Montana Natural Heritage Program
Montana State Library--Natural Resource Information System
1515 East Sixth Ave., Helena, MT 59620-1800
406 444-5354