Carex sect. Foetidae

(Tuckerman ex L. H. Bailey) Kükenthal

in H. G. A. Engler, Pflanzenr. 20[IV,38]: 114. 1909.

Basionym: Foetidae Tuckerman ex L. H. Bailey in J. M. Coulter, Man. Bot. Rocky Mt., 390. 1885
Treatment appears in FNA Volume 23.

Plants colonial or loosely cespitose, short-rhizomatous. Culms brown at base. Leaves: basal sheaths sometimes fibrous; sheath fronts membranous, distal leaves with at least narrow hyaline or white-hyaline band extending 1/2 length of sheath; blades V-shaped in cross section when young, sometimes involute, glabrous. Inflorescences racemose, with (1–)3–20 spikes, globose to ovoid-globose; bracts absent or scalelike, sheathless; lateral spikes androgynous, often very condensed and individually indistinct, sessile, without prophylls; terminal spike androgynous. Proximal pistillate scales with apex subobtuse, acute or shortly awned. Perigynia erect to spreading, faces veined or veinless, sessile to stipitate, ovate to narrowly ovate, plano-convex in cross section, base rounded, margins acutely angled, apex tapering to beak, glabrous; beak 0.5–1.5 mm, with abaxial suture, margins often serrulate, apex obliquely cleft or slightly bidentate. Stigmas 2. Achenes biconvex, smaller than bodies of perigynia; style deciduous.


North America, South America, Eurasia.


Species 10 or 11 (4 in the flora).

Perigynium venation, shape, and inflation, and stipe presence are difficult to assess in specimens of Carex sect. Foetidae that are not fully mature.

Selected References



1 Leaves flat, shorter than the erect culms, the widest (including dead remains of last years leaves) (1.5–)2–3.5(–4) mm wide; perigynia not inflated, ± equaling pistillate scales at maturity; beak well defined, 0.9–1.5 mm; anthers 1.5–2.8 mm. Carex vernacula
1 Leaves strongly folded to involute, often equaling the usually curved culms, the widest 0.5–2.2(–2.5) mm wide; perigynia either inflated or exceeding pistillate scales or both; beak sometimes poorly defined, 0.5–1.1 mm; anthers 0.9–2 mm. > 2
2 Perigynia strongly inflated, ± equaling pistillate scales, delicate and membranous; stipe absent or broad, to 0.2 mm; spikes ca. 8–15. Carex perglobosa
2 Perigynia somewhat inflated or not, exceeding pistillate scales, papery or leathery; stipe usually conspicuous, 0.2–0.7 mm; spikes (1–)3–7. > 3
3 Perigynia finely veined to nearly veinless abaxially, essentially veinless adaxially, ovate to broadly ovate, (1.4–)1.6–2.3(–2.7) mm wide; pistillate scales with usually broad whitish hyaline margins, broadly ovate to orbicular, apex obtuse to ± acute; arctic and subarctic lowlands, largely coastal. Carex maritima
3 Perigynia finely veined on both faces, elliptic, 1–1.5(–1.6) mm wide; pistillate scales with very narrow hyaline margins (except sometimes the lowest), ovate, apex acute to acuminate; alpine zone of the Rocky Mountains from Alaska to Colorado, Sierra Nevada. Carex incurviformis