FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Carex woodii is a lovely perennial woodland sedge with narrow fine textured leaves. This sedge forms clonal colonies from underground rhizomes. In spring a sparse offering of yellow-green spikelets are held above the leaves. In the wild, this species occurs in well drained, moist or dry acidic or calcareous woods. In landscape situations, Carex woodii is an excellent groundcover for the shade garden.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Carex woodii is native to eastern and central North America in Ontario and south from New York to Georgia and Kentucky. The range extends west to Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. Distribution is greatest in areas adjacent to the Great Lakes.
Plants are indigenous to mesic hardwood forests especially on deeply shaded north facing slopes, rich calcareous woodlands, rich moist beech-maple forests, dry-mesic upland forests, montane mixed oak or oak-hickory forests, acidic cove forests and perimeters of hillside seeps. Common canopy trees include sugar maple, basswood, northern red oak, green ash, bur oak, trembling aspen and American beech.
Hardy from USDA Zones 4-6.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Carex woodii forms loose or dense leafy tufts. Plants slowly spread into colonies forming sod-like stands from long underground rhizomes.
Foliage is fine textured and light green. Blades are up to 10” long and about 1/8” wide. The lowest leaves are reduced to bladeless burgundy colored sheathes.
In early to mid-spring fertile culms rise above the foliage bearing a terminal staminate spikelet with 2 pistillate spikelets below. The upright spikelets are golden to yellow-green with white or purplish scales. The perigynia on the pistillate flower are oval to rounded with a beakless tip.
After flowering, yellowish brown seed clusters appear and are dispersed by late spring or early summer.
This sedge is 6-12” tall with an equal spread. Plants form clonal colonies that flower sparingly and rarely produce seed.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Carex woodii prospers in sites with dappled sunlight or full shade and moist loamy soil.
Plants tolerate average soils, drought and acidic or alkaline pH.
This is a cool climate species that attains most of its growth during lower temperatures. Plants expand into vegetative colonies by underground rhizomes and rarely self-seed.
This sedge is low maintenance, pest resistant and unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: Carex woodii is a valuable Groundcover or Edging Plant for a Shade Garden. This sedge is lovely when planted in a soothing Grouping or Mass. Plants provide Erosion Control and Winter Interest and are appropriate for Deer Resistant Plantings, Low Maintenance Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes and Wildlife Gardens.
Carex woodii is a great native substitute for the popular Asian groundcovers Liriope muscari and Ophiopogon japonicus.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Carex woodii with Aquilegia canadensis, Deschampsia flexuosa, Heuchera americana 'Dales Strain', Iris cristata, Phlox divaricata or Polystichum acrostichoides.
Carex pensylvanica is similar in appearance, rhizomatous habit and cultural needs and would be a worthy substitute.
TRIVIA: Carex woodii can be differentiated from the very similar Carex pensylvanica due to its non-fibrous reddish-purple basal sheaths and slightly wider, more erect foliage.
The specific epithet honors the English botanist and Unitarian minister William Wood (1745–1808).
This species is also known as Carex colorata and Carex tetanica var. woodii.