Carex swanii

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: sedge 
Type: Rush or Sedge
Family: Cyperaceae
Native Range: North America
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Deer


Easily grown in medium to moist soils in full sun to part shade. Best performance occurs in soils with consistent moisture. Plants will self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Carex swanii, sometimes commonly called swan's sedge, is a perennial sedge (section Porocystis) that grows in loose rhizomatous clumps to 1-3' tall. It is native to dry to wet-mesic forests in eastern and central North America (Nova Scotia to Ontario south to Arkansas, northern Alabama and Georgia). In Missouri, this sedge is typically found in bottomland forests, swamps and acid seep margins (most commonly along Crowley's Ridge and the eastern Ozarks) in the far southeastern part of the State (Steyermark). Plants feature pubescent, narrow, flat, grass-like, medium green leaves (each to 12" long and 1/4" wide). Flowers bloom in spikes in late spring (May-June) on sparsely hairy, erect to arching flowering stems (reddish-purple bases) growing to 30" long. The terminal spikelet on each inflorescence has pistillate florets at the top and staminate florets at the base, but the lateral spikelets have only pistillate florets. Flowers are followed by tiny fruits (achenes) enclosed in sac-like bracts (perigynia). Perigynia of this species are pubescent and beakless.

Swan's sedge is similar in appearance to hairy-fruited sedge (C. virescens), and was once known as Carex virescens var. swanii.

Over 1500 species of Carex grow in a variety of habitats (often moist to wet areas) throughout the world. Identification of individual species can be very difficult.

Genus name from Latin means cutter in reference to the sharp leaves and stem edges (rushes are round but sedges have edges) found on most species' plants.

Specific epithet honors botanist Charles Walter Swan (1838-1921).


No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf spot, smut and rust are occasional problems.


Best grown in mass for foliage effect in consistently moist soils. Flowers are not particularly showy. Good selection for low spots or stream/pond margins. Also may be grown in a variety of upland locations as long as soils are kept consistently moist. Effective accent for smaller gardens.