Sheathed sedge plant species found in Black Hills National Forest
December 10, 2010
CUSTER, SD – Botanists have discovered a plant previously unknown in the Black Hills.
Black Hills National Forest Botany Technician, Cheryl Mayer Stisser was doing a routine check on a sensitive plant area when she came across a species of sedge (Carex vaginata), that was not familiar to her or her peers. Mayer Stisser took a sample, analyzed it under a microscope, and paged through many books. “It did not seem to fit with anything in our local Flora books, so I put it aside for awhile. “This fall I dove into the mystery again, keying the plant out in books from other regions and in the Flora of North America,” said Mayer Stisser.
After paging through several books, Mayer Stisser thought she figured out the plant species. “I contacted Dr. Anton Reznicek of the University of Michigan, one of the national experts on this group of plants. He agreed to take a look at my specimens and confirmed that it was indeed sheathed sedge.”
Sedges are grass-like plants and can be dominant species in wetlands.
Mayer Stisser said the find was interesting because this particular sedge species was not known to grow in the Black Hills. “This sedge species is primarily found in colder climates like Canada and Alaska, especially in tundra and northern boreal forest habitats.”
“This is the southern-most known occurrence of the species in North America,” Mayer Stisser said. “The closest other occurrences to the Black Hills are northwestern Montana and northern Minnesota.”
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The sedge was found in a fen (a wetland that is supplied with a steady source of groundwater and has a thick layer of decomposed plant material that has accumulated over a period of thousands of years).
Mayer Stisser said next summer they will do additional surveys to try to locate more sheathed sedge sites in the Black Hills and to better document the extent of the known site.
“Populations of plant species on the edge of their distribution, like this new site, are particularly important to study over time because they may be the first to be affected by the results of climate change,” said Mayer Stisser.