Discovering Blue Wood Sedge

Last fall, a plant caught my eye under the mammoth Magnolia grandiflora in our front yard.  Few plants save for moss can survive under its shade, but yet here was a grass ally holding its own.  Squatting down, I ran my fingers over the triangular edges and felt giddy.  It was a sedge I had never before seen.

Sedges are the "in" thing in horticulture.  Using Carex is quite fashionable now as green infrastructure, rain gardens, no mow lawns, and designed plant communities are all trends that capitalize on this incredibly durable species.  I have been searching high and low for the latter reason, good candidates to use as a ground cover layer in my plantings, and here was one right under my nose.  Well, my tree.  

The foliage was glaucous and broad, which limited it to a few species.  Searching online images and Carex keys made me believe that it was Carex flaccosperma (blue wood sedge).  But, with time I started leaning towards Carex glaucodea (whose common name is confusingly also blue wood sedge.  Why not call it glaucous sedge?).  Evidently Carex glaucodea used to be a variety of Carex flaccosperma, so I don't think I'm that far off.  And, the official taxonomic identity doesn't matter for the purpose I have in mind.  

Carex glaucodea / flaccosperma  in a wooly part of our yard.  

Carex glaucodea/flaccosperma in a wooly part of our yard.  

I considered digging the single clump to propagate, but as with many flora finds, once you acquire the mental image it's suddenly everywhere.  The plants are primarily along the property perimeter—on the front bank, skirting fencerows, and under trees.  A few are actually hiding out in our lawn in full sun.  Frost made it easier to locate them as it browned the surrounding camouflage, and made the evergreen, glaucous blue blades easier to see.  With the arrival of longer days it's still easy to see from a distance.  The emerging foliage is colored honeydew and spikes above the turf.  

Back in November I started transplanting clumps into a bed along the roof drip line of our house, and recently, I finished filling it with plugs.  Any plant that can grow in such varied conditions warrants evaluation in the garden as we turn to using lesser known but ecologically importance species.  These relocated clumps will serve as a source for propagules and seed if the plants produce any.  In total, I moved over 100 clumps, and there’s still plenty more around our property.  

Saved from the mower blades, a wheelbarrow full of  Carex  ready for planting.  

Saved from the mower blades, a wheelbarrow full of Carex ready for planting.  

Carex  is hipster Liriope.  

Carex is hipster Liriope.  

Propagating all this Carex reminds me of reading in Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher's Garden Revolution where they share how Native Americans would replant Carex barbarae (Santa Barbara sedge) as they dug clumps to use the blades for weaving.  And, as I re-wild our 2.5 acres of mostly turf, I’ll be sure to move some back into the landscape once I make more.

As far as the first plant that started it all, I left it.  I figured as a survivor under a mighty tree it should stay right where it is.  Plus, who knows how long it'll live if not moved.  We shall see.