An Abundance of Sedges

Sedges in the genus Carex can be found throughout North America, from mountain balds to wet meadows. There’s a sedge for almost any niche you can imagine. As people seek out more sustainable and functional landscapes, sedges make a lot of sense.

Examining Carex seed
Derick Poindexter (R), a Carex specialist, examines seeds with Jessica Smith and Scott Epps from the nursery.

Last fall, we installed a new garden where we will be trying out a wide range of native sedges. It’s a forested spot in dappled shade with both wet and dry areas. It’s been progressing nicely, with the sedges we planted last fall beginining to fill in and mature.

As part of our sedge exploration, we’ve consulted a number of nationally recognized experts. That has led us to a local graduate student doing fascinating work with sedges. Derick Poindexter is a doctoral candidate in Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill working with Dr. Alan Weakley.

One of Derick’s specialities is the genus Carex, and he’s published a number of scientific papers related to them. He has been active in new species descriptions, discoveries, and taxonomic treatments in various works (Flora of North America, Flora of Virginia, and Flora of the Southern & Mid-Atlantic States). He’s a real whiz with sedges, and we’ve benefitted from his identification skills and experience.

In his dissertation research, Derick is examining chromosomal counts and other genetic characteristics of North American Carex. That means he’s collected a lot of sedges. This fall, we partnered with Derick to house a large portion of his collected specimens in our new sedge garden.

Touring propagation
Derick toured the propagation facilities and talked with Scott Epps and Jessica Smith about our Carex program.

With more than 40 different Carex species to be added to our garden, we’ll have one of the largest collections in the Southeast. Derick visited the nursery last month to deliver part of his collection. Our Propagator Coordinator, Jessica Smith, and Nursery Manager, Scott Epps discussed propagation techniques with him and coordinated placement of the new plants in the trial garden.

This Carex partnership will allow us to evaluate novel species for functional and ornamental qualities and to collect seed. Derick will have a long-term home for his collection and access to plants for future research. We’re excited about the potential for bringing more sedges to market and meeting the demand for beautiful, functional plants.

We’ve included more photos below from the recent visit and our Carex garden.

Carex seed up close
Jessica Smith discussed our Carex seed collection and storage.
John Hoffman and Derick Poindexter
John Hoffman talked with Derick about the new sedges and his research.
Jessica and Derick check labels
Jessica and Derick made sure each new Carex was properly labeled.
Accessioning all the plants
All plants were labeled with a stick tag and metal accession tag. Derick’s fiance, Kateland Bennett (far right), helped match the plants, locations, and accession records.
Newly planted Carex
The newly planted Carex are settling in. We’re eager to see how they’ll look this spring.

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