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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Carex limosa Herbaceous Vegetation

Common Name:
Mud sedge Herbaceous Vegetation

Community Description

Carex limosa is widespread, occurring at mid to high elevations in boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere. This association is currently reported from Wyoming and Montana west into Idaho, Utah and California. Stands occur in some of the wettest sites in fens that have formed in glacial kettles, on pond margins, along low-gradient lake inlets or outlets, and in association with springs in broad valleys. Frequently it occurs as a floating mat. Carex limosa has 50% or greater cover. Several species that are adapted to nutrient-poor conditions, including Drosera rotundifolia, Eriophorum scheuchzeri, Eriophorum chamissonis, Carex limosa, Menyanthes trifoliata, and Trichophorum caespitosum (= Scirpus cespitosus), are sometimes present. In addition Carex aquatilis, Carex rostrata, and Comarum palustre (= Potentilla palustris) may be present. A dense layer of moss that often includes Sphagnum spp. occurs in some stands.

This community type is associated with pond and lake margins, and typically develops on floating or quaking mats. It may also occur on low gradient inflows or outflows of ponds or lakes (Hansen et al. 1995). Sites are usually very poorly drained and persistently saturated with standing water in spring.

Carex limosa cover ranges from 20%-90% (Hansen et al. 1995). In Montana, Carex utriculata and Menyanthes trifoliata are commonly associated species.

In addition to Montana, the Carex limosa community type is distributed throughout the northern hemisphere; in the western United States it is a minor type in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, southeastern Idaho, throughout much of Montana, and has been documented from Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, as well as California.

These sites are generally so wet as to preclude most types of livestock and recreational uses.

Global Rank: G2 State Rank: S2

Global Rank Comments:
This plant association is naturally rare being restricted to the specialized habitat of nutrient-poor fens. Stands occupy very small areas of the landscape with the sum of patches usually being less than a few (5) acres. Homes and cabins are frequently located along shores of lakes supporting this association. In some locations boat docks are cut into peat mats, and access across unstable substrates is provided by primitive boardwalks (created with palettes or wood scraps). In addition, nutrients from faulty sewage systems and sediment from activities (roads and logging) within the watershed may impact water chemistry of sites. Drought years may make stands accessible to both domestic and wild grazing animals, which creates bare mud tracks or rutted and hummocky soils. Loss of waterfowl habitat may concentrate foraging and bedding within stands.

Community References


95-07-10 / L. Williams

Bourgeron and Engelking 1994, Driscoll et al. 1984, Hansen et al. 1988b, Hansen et al. 1991, Hansen et al. 1995, Kovalchik 1993, Mattson 1984, Padgett et al. 1989

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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