Description & Overview

Plains Oval Sedge is a native inhabitant of dry, sandy soils concentrated primarily in the southern two-thirds of the state. It is extremely adaptable to clay, drought, periodic flooding, and alkaline soils, making it an all-purpose option for full sun to part shade areas. Short mounds of finely textured foliage show off leafy culms that rise above the foliage, bearing two to six green, oval flower spikes that mature into a reddish brown by mid-summer.

You may also know this plant as Shortbeak Sedge.

Core Characteristics

Category: Grasses

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 1-2 feet

Mature Spread: 1-2 feet

Growth Rate: Slow

Growth Form: Mounded, clump-forming, spreading

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Site Requirements: Dry to wet, well-drained

Flower: Spikelet, spiky appearance, green, wind-pollinated

Bloom Period: May

Foliage: Green, 10" long, hairless

Fall Color: Tan

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Brown achenes that dehisce at maturity, beak-like in appearance.

Suggested Uses

With its ability to prosper in just about any soil and light condition (except full shade), Plains Oval Sedge is truly versatile and low maintenance. It is an excellent addition to a rain garden, where water levels can swing from wet to dry, able to withstand extremes like a champ.

Its short stature and compact habit make this a great option for filling in empty spots in the landscape, as weed suppression or bordering a sunny path. Though not traditionally a showy plant, Plains Oval Sedge takes on a supporting role, allowing other plants to be the center of the landscape.

Mix with other warm-season grasses such as Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), and Blue Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) to restore prairies and meadows, or to control erosion.

Plains Oval Sedge is a native inhabitant of dry, sandy soils concentrated primarily in the southern two-thirds of the state. It is extremely adaptable…

Wildlife Value

Although the majority of sedges are wind pollinated and of little value to pollinators and insects, Plains Oval Sedge is a food source for grasshoppers and the larvae of billbugs as well as leafminer flies and aphids.

Plains Oval Sedge often has bird visitors such as Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Yellowthroats, Sedge Wrens, Sandhill Cranes, Sharp-tailed Sparrows, Yellow Rails, Wilson’s Phalaropes, and LeConte’s Sparrows.

While Plains Oval Sedge may not be a pollinator magnet, something we might not notice is how much habitat sedges provide to wildlife. Small creatures such as toads, frogs, salamanders, and turtles use sedges to find refuge from the heat, for nests, and protective covering.

Maintenance Tips

Like other Carex, Plains Oval Sedge is very low maintenance. Trimming or mowing back foliage can be done in late winter/early spring. Carices are cool-season sedges; their active growing period is early spring and fall.

If the plant starts to die out in the center, almost like a donut hole, that means it’s time to divide in spring. Not only will this tidy up the overall appearance but it allows you to plant more without buying more!

With this species, the culms (flower stalks) are prone to leaning to one side. No need to worry as this is just what the plant does!

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

Deer, rabbit, pest resistant, and tolerant of black walnut toxicity!

Leaf Lore

Carex is the Latin name for “sedge” while the specific epithet brevior means ‘shorter,’ referencing the shorter beak on the perigynia, the sac that surrounds the achene (seeds).

Sedges in general have historically been used for a variety of purposes including using the roots for basketry or dye, in ceremonial dances, for shaving, as an emetic, to prevent snakebites, and to make insoles for moccasins.

Wisconsin has about 30,000 acres of moderate to high-quality sedge meadows, less than 3% of the 1,135,000 acres estimated to be present before settlement.

There are about 4,000 species in the sedge family Cyperaceae and the genus Carex holds about 2,000 of those species.

Companion Plants

Other tough, adaptable plants that pair well with Plains Oval Sedge include Red-twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea), Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica), Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriacus), Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), and Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).

For dry-mesic prairie areas, combine with plants that enjoy similar conditions such as Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), Blue Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Upland White Goldenrod (Solidago ptarmicoides), Rough Blazingstar (Liatris aspera), Leadplant (Amorpha canescens), Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis), Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), Hairy Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis), and Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa).

Plains Oval Sedge is a native inhabitant of dry, sandy soils concentrated primarily in the southern two-thirds of the state. It is extremely adaptable…
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Written by Beth DeLain