Carex


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Carex

 

(sedge), a genus of plants of the family Cyperaceae. The plants are perennial herbs with creeping or shortened rhizomes. Sedges form loose or dense mats or, sometimes, hillocks. The leaves are usually sheathed and linear and have rough, sharp margins and a narrow ligule. The plants, as a rule, are monoecious. The unisexual flowers are generally in multiflorous spike-lets that are gathered into inflorescences; rarely are the flowers solitary. There is no perianth. The staminate flowers have three stamens in the axils of the glumes; the pistillate flowers have an ovary enclosed in a closed bracteole known as the perigynium.

There are about 1,500 species of Carex (according to other data, up to 2,000), distributed primarily in temperate and cold zones. In the USSR, there are more than 400 species; they are encountered everywhere, but mainly in the forest zone, the tundra, the forest tundra, and the alpine and subalpine zones of the mountains. The plants usually grow in damp places: in marshes and marshy meadows and along bodies of water. They often make up the principal mass of the plant cover. Many species of Carex are eaten before flowering by grazing livestock; less frequently, they are used as hay or silage.

The graceful sedge (Carex acuta; formerly C. gracilis), which is widespread in the forest zone, is used as a forage plant in pastures and for hay. C. supina is found in pastures of the European USSR, in the Caucasus, in Western Siberia, and in Middle Asia. C. physodes is a typical plant of sandy deserts, and C. pachystylis is characteristic of semideserts. Both plants serve as the principal winter-spring fodder for sheep in Middle Asia. The bottle sedge (C. rostrata) and C. rotundata are valuable subnivean and early-spring fodders for reindeer. Steppe and high-mountain species are good pasture plants. The rhizomes and stems of Carex are sometimes used to make floor mats, mats for covering hotbeds, sackcloth, cord, coarse varieties of paper, and furniture stuffing. Species with long rhizomes, such as the sand sedge (C. arenaria), C. colchica, and C. physodes, are used to prevent sand erosion. Some species are used in the manufacture of the medicinal preparation brevicollin, which is used in obstetrics. A number of species are cultivated as ornamentals.

REFERENCES

Krechetovich, V. I. “Osoka—Carex L.” In Flora SSSR, vol. 3. Leningrad, 1935.
Egorova, T. V. Osoki SSSR: Vidy podroda Vignea. Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.
Kükenthal, G. Cyperaceae—Caricoideae. Leipzig, 1909. (Das Pflanzenreich, fasc. 38. Edited by A. Engler.)

T. E. EGOROVA

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