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USDA, NRCS. 2014. The PLANTS Database (, 22 January 2014). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Carex emoryii

Emory's sedge

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Carex emoryi is a tufted wetland sedge that forms dense colonies from underground rhizomes.  New leaves are bright green.  In spring culms rise above the foliage bearing 4-8 erect spikelets. The pistillate or female spikelets are showy and feathery white.  They mature into chocolate brown seed spikes. This sedge is a versatile aquatic emergent.  It prospers in sun or part sun and in standing water or wet mucky soil.

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Carex emoryi is native to parts of eastern and central North America from Manitoba south to Texas and Mexico and from Newfoundland south to Virginia. Plants are absent from most of the southeastern United States.

This sedge is most common on the banks of rivers and streams where it often grows in distinctive bands.  It also occurs on sand bars, gravel bars, marsh edges, wet meadows, savannas with alluvial soil and in sedge meadows.

Hardy from USDA Zones 5-9.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Carex emoryi is a vigorous sedge that forms large masses from vigorous underground rhizomes.

Old leaves are usually retained for a year or more.  They turn tan and remain below the new bright green leaves.

In spring culms rise above the foliage displaying erect spikelets.  The red-brown terminal spikelet is staminate (male).  The lower spikes are pistillate (female).  Each female flower has the two showy white stigmas.  The mass of white stigmas is very showy and quite unusual among the sedges.  The pistillate spikelets mature into deep brown seed clusters.

Plants are about 4’ tall with an equal spread.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Carex emoryi thrives in full sun or partly shaded sites with moist or wet soil. 

Prospers in standing water and tolerates short periods of drought, heavy clay soil and seasonal flooding.

Plants are pest resistant and unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.

LANDSCAPE USES:  Carex emoryi is valuable for Wetland Restoration and soil retention in Bioswales and drainage ditches.  This sedge can be used to reduce maintenance and hold ground on various shorelines.  Plants are useful in Wet Meadows and Stormwater Projects.   Plants provide Erosion Control and are appropriate for Deer Resistant Plantings.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:   Try pairing plants with Asclepias incarnata, Aster puniceus, Lobelia cardinalis, Iris versicolor, Iris virginica, Juncus effusus and Scirpus cyperinus.

Carex stricta is similar in appearance and cultural needs and can be substituted if needed. 

TRIVIA:  Carex emoryi and other wetland sedges host caterpillars of Eyed Brown Butterflies and several species of Skippers and moths.  Many wetland birds feed on the seed.  The Sedge Wren feeds and nests in sites dominated by wetland sedges.

The perigynium is a distinguishing feature of Carex spp. This is a bag-like bract that encloses the pistillate flowers. The sac-like structure persists after fertilization and surrounds the resulting one seeded achene.  The perigynia of Carex emoryi have 3-5 conspicuous veins along their outer surface.  The related C. stricta has smooth veinless perigynia.

Carex emoryi is a very resilient sedge. In its typical river bank habitat, plants are often battered by storm and flood.  This sedge can rapidly recover, regenerate new growth and form a robust tussock.


4 ft


3-4 ft


6-8 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone:


Bloom Color:


Carex emoryii Characteristics


  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Attracts Wildlife

  • Pollinators
  • Songbirds

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Wet


  • Naturalizing
  • Rain Garden
  • Clay Soil
  • Bog

Flowering Months

  • May
  • April

Foliage Color

  • Green

Grass Season

  • Cool Season Grass

Plants that work well with Carex emoryii ''

Swamp milkweed Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Cardinal flower Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Blue flag Blue flag (Iris versicolor)
Southern blue flag Southern blue flag (Iris virginica)
Soft rush Soft rush (Juncus effusus)
Wool grass Wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus)
Path rush Path rush (Juncus tenuis)

Substitutions for Carex emoryii

Lake sedge Lake sedge (Carex lacustris)
Tussock sedge Tussock sedge (Carex stricta)