Little green sedge (Carex viridula)

Little green sedge, ssp. oedocarpa

Top facts

  • The second part of the scientific name of the little green sedge, viridula, is Latin for ‘green’, referring to the colouration of this species.
  • The little green sedge reproduces asexually.
  • Three subspecies of little green sedge are currently recognised.
  • The little green sedge flowers between May and September.
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Little green sedge fact file

Little green sedge description

GenusCarex (1)

The second part of the scientific name of the little green sedge (Carex viridula), viridula, is Latin for ‘green’, referring to the colouration of this species (3).

The little green sedge is a perennial plant which grows in compact tufts (2) (4) (5). Its hollow stems, known as ‘culms’, are pale brown at the base (2), straight or slightly curved (4) and wiry (2). The leaves are dull green (2) and flat (5), although they may occasionally be folded (2).

As with other members of the Cyperaceae family, the little green sedge has small, inconspicuous flowers which are arranged in erect ‘spikes’ (6). Groups of spikes are clustered together to form inflorescences (6), with a male spike at the tip (2) (5) and between one and eight female spikes below, which are oval or cylindrical (2) and may be touching or have space between them (4).

The fruit of the sedge, known as an ‘achene’, is dry and single seeded (4). The achene of this species is black and shiny and is triangular with slightly concave edges (2). Similarly to other Carex species, the achene of the little green sedge is enclosed within a sac-like structure known as the ‘perigynium’ (4), which is oval or circular (2) (5) and may be yellow or dark olive in this species (2) (4). There are up to 30 perigynia per spike (2) and 3 stigmata protrude from the interior of each perigynium (2) (5).

The little green sedge has three subspecies: Carex viridula brachyrrhyncha, Carex viridula oedocarpa and Carex viridula viridula, which differ in range and size (4) (7).

Also known as
green sedge, green yellow sedge, greenish sedge.
Carex chlorocarpa, Carex chlorophila, Carex chlorophylla, Carex irregularis, Carex oederi, Carex pulchella, Carex scandinavica, Carex serotina, Carex subglobosa.
Stem length: up to 50 cm (2)

Little green sedge biology

There is very little information available on the biology of the little green sedge, although it is likely that, as with other Carex species, it has unisexual flowers, with each individual flower containing either male or female reproductive organs (6). The little green sedge flowers between May and September (2).

As a perennial species, the little green sedge usually lives for more than two years (2) (6). As with all sedges, it is likely to reproduce asexually, growing new stems from underground roots called ‘rhizomes(6).


Little green sedge range

The little green sedge has an almost circumpolar distribution (5) (8). This species is present in most of Canada and in a large proportion of the north-western and western United States (7).


Little green sedge habitat

The little green sedge grows in a variety of open, wet habitats (9) including meadows (2) (5) (8), peatlands (8), fens (2) (9), seeps, marshes and along the shorelines of lakes and ponds (2).


Little green sedge status

The little green sedge has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.


Little green sedge threats

There are not currently thought to be any threats to the little green sedge. This species is extremely adaptable and is able to colonise many different habitat types (8).


Little green sedge conservation

There are not currently known to be any specific conservation measures in place for the little green sedge, although it is listed as endangered in Connecticut and Pennsylvania and threatened in Illinois (7).


Find out more

Find out more about the little green sedge:

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A simple single-seeded fruit that falls from the plant in one piece. Achenes usually in occur in clusters.
Of asexual reproduction: reproduction that does not involve the formation of sex cells (‘gametes’). In many species, asexual reproduction can occur by existing cells splitting into two, or part of the organism breaking away and developing into a separate individual. Some animals, including vertebrates, can also develop from unfertilised eggs; this process, known as parthenogenesis, gives rise to offspring that are genetically identical to the parent.
Wetland with alkaline, neutral or only slightly acidic peaty soil. The alkalinity arises due to ground water seeping through calcareous rocks (rocks containing calcium carbonate).
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
An underground, horizontal plant stem that produces roots and shoots.
The part of the female reproductive organ of a flower which receives the pollen, and on which the pollen germinates (starts growing).
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (January, 2014)
  2. Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2005) Cyperceae: Sedges. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois.
  3. University of Wisconsin - Carex viridula (January, 2014)
  4. Flora of North America - Little green sedge (Carex viridula) (January, 2014)
  5. Cody, W.J. (2000) Flora of the Yukon Territory. NRC Research Press, Ottawa, Ontario.
  6. Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. United States Department of Agriculture - Carex viridula (January, 2014)
  8. Więcław, H. and Podlasiński, M. (2013) Morphological differences between natural populations of Carex viridula (Cyperaceae): effects of soil conditions. Annales Botanici Fennici, 50: 13-22.
  9. Ohio Department of Natural Resources - Carex viridula (January, 2014)

Image credit

Little green sedge, ssp. oedocarpa  
Little green sedge, ssp. oedocarpa

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