The Sedge Family Cyperaceae of Renfrew County:
A comparative study

By Grant A. Bickel, 2021

The Sedge Family Cyperaceae Jussieu

Fourteen Genera represent the Sedge Family in Renfrew County. Click on the Genus in the list below to drill down to the individual species. The Home button will always return you here.

Introduction and motivation

Throughout the past twenty years I have endeavored to learn the Cyperaceae Family of Renfrew County (Ontario, CANADA) for a number of reasons: motivation for exploring the natural beauty of our county, an intellectual challenge and, to contribute data to the natural history knowledge base. Cyperaceae, commonly know as sedges, can be found in a wide variety of habitats making exploration for them very rewarding. About 150 species of sedges have been recorded in Renfrew County and, since almost all are native, they can be enjoyed in many natural and undisturbed environments. The majority (>100 species) represent the Genus Carex and accordingly, the Carices of Renfrew County are given more detailed treatment in this document. Sorting out all of these species can be quite daunting. Eventually, the hours of study pay off and, quite suddenly, a certain level of familiarity is achieved and the keys can be thrown away.

This work is meant to capture my knowledge about the Cyperaceae of Renfrew County from the perspective of a field naturalist. It focuses on identification of the sedge species by comparing relevant morphological features. My greatest struggle in this study was trying to key out the species from the keys and verbal descriptions available in the floras (especially within the large Carex genus). I soon became aware that that was the wrong approach. Real information is always lost in the translation to the limited verbal realm. My mind (and I believe many other's) more readily sees the morphological features that distinguish species when using a graphic (photograph or actual plant) than when using a verbal statement. Suffice it to say, I could only learn the sedge species from seeing individual plants or specimens. My focus here is to show the different sedge species in a comparative manner. Macro photography is used to show similar species side by side so that the distinguishing features can be highlighted.

The taxonomy of the Cyperaceae Family is largely ignored in this work. It is nomenclature, and I cannot find a way to present it to the reader in a way that makes identifying the named species any easier. The exception is Carex where the sheer numbers of species require me to organize them into two subgenera and each of these into sections. The Carex sections are mostly natural groups comprised of species that look similar to each other. I do make reference to these sections as the grouping does help in becoming familiar with the species. Again, the intent here is to learn all of the Renfrew County species first and in the future one can examine how they fit into the taxonomist’s models. I follow the nomenclature of Flora of North America (

This is not intended to be a "field guide" or a "flora" - it is a personal study resource to convince myself that the named species (within Renfrew County) are identified accurately and uniquely by their visible morphology. When posted publicly, this document provides that same resource to anyone who may be interested. It includes only species for which specimens have been observed or verified by myself.

Images in this document

All of the images in this document are by the author. The close-up photographs are taken with Digital SLR camera with a macro lens and extension tubes. Those photographs are at a resolution close to that achieved with a 10x magnifying loupe and the naked eye. Depth of field stacking was used to eliminate out of focus regions and combine all of the available detail into a single image. The program CombineZM by Alan Hadley (GNU Public License) was used to accomplish the depth of field stacking. I highly recommend this free software for its extreme ease of use and spectacular results. Nearly all of the photographs were edited (Adobe Photoshop CS5) to reduce vacant space and decrease file size, better align objects, or compare objects from separate photographs by making composites. In all cases extreme care was taken to ensure that spatial scales were precisely maintained. Colors were not intentionally altered. In a few cases (e.g., Scirpus), microscopic images were required and the resolution far exceeds that achievable in the field. In those cases, a Celeston Digital Microscope Pro with a homemade adjustable specimen stage was used and run with Plugable Technologies' Digital Viewer software. The black on white habit silhouettes came from scans (consumer flatbed scanner) or photographs of actual specimens converted to 1-bit black on white. The coordinates of herbarium and personal records were plotted with ArcGIS Explorer (ESRI 2013) that were then exported as overlays into Adobe Photoshop CS5 for rendering into the distribution maps.

Coding of this document

All coding in this document is my own (self taught for this project). html5, with its hyperlink capability and simple structure was an ideal choice for creating a document that could keep all of the Cyperaceae species in proper context and provide quick navigation. A site map provides the correspondence between the Family/Genera/Species hierarchy and the layout of this html document. Since html5 is a semantic language, the coding is always readable and easy to edit. For consistent styling, css3 was used. That is all - no bling and no frustrating long downloads of animations and advertisements - I am old school. It also remains a Responsive Web Design because I kept it so simple (although not tested on all media). All images in the main document are compressed into the kilobyte range for high speed loading. However, all of these images can be accessed in full resolution by clicking the image and opening in a new window.

Hosting of this document

The Pembroke Area Field Naturalists (, kindly provide the domain name and host this website.


Special thanks are deserved by the staff at the Canadian Museum of Nature (CAN herbarium): Jennifer Doubt and Micheline Beaulieu-Bouchard and the staff at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (DAO herbarium): Amanda Ward, Paul Catling and Jacques Cayouette. My family provided overwhelming support in offering me time for this hobby and for tolerating side trips into the bush while on our way to more important things.

Soli Deo gloria