Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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S.G. Aiken, M.J. Dallwitz, L.L. Consaul, C.L. McJannet, R.L. Boles, G.W. Argus, J.M. Gillett, P.J. Scott, R. Elven, M.C. LeBlanc, L.J. Gillespie, A.K. Brysting, H. Solstad, and J.G. Harris

Carex maritima Gunnerus

English: Maritime sedge,

French: Carex maritime,

Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka.

Cyperaceae, Sedge family.

Published in Fl. Norveg. II, 131. 1772.

Type: Norway: Relevant types: TRH-GUNN 1017.1 (Maasøe, 27.06.1767, leg. J.E. Gunnerus) and TRH-GUNN 1017.2 (Hammerfæst, 22.06.1767, leg. J.E. Gunnerus).

Synonymy. Carex incurva Lightf., Fl. Scot. 2: 544. 1777.

Carex setina (H. Christ) Krecz., Izv. Bot. Sada Akad. Nauk SSSR 30: 136. 1932; treated as a separate taxon by some Russian authors, Elven (personal communication, 2005).

Carex maritima Gunnerus subsp. setina (H. Christ) T.V. Egorova, Novosti Sist. Vyssh. Rast. 1965: 73. 1965.

Carex maritima var. setina (Christ) Fernald, Rhodora 35: 397. 1933.

Carex maritima f. inflata (Simmons) Polunin, Bull. Natl. Mus. Canada 94 (Biol. Ser. 24): 110. 1940.

Carex maritima subsp. yukonensis Porsild, Natl. Mus. Canada Bull. 216: 19. 1966.

Vegetative morphology. Plants (2–)5–10(–20) cm high; perennial herbs; not caespitose (although sometimes loosely clustered and colonial). Only fibrous roots present. Roots pallid-brown. Ground level or underground stems horizontal; rhizomatous, or stoloniferous; elongate, or compact. Ground level or underground stems scales present (on horizontal stems). Aerial stems erect, or decumbent (usually); not filiform (0.6–4.0 mm in diameter including sheathing leaf bases). Leaves present; mainly basal; alternate; marcescent. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; persisting; not forming a conspicuous build-up at the base of the plant; brown (pallid to dark brown); sheath collars absent. Ligules present; 0.3–1.2 mm long. Leaves grass-like. Blades (20–)30–80(–130) mm long, 0.25–2(–2.6) mm wide, somewhat curled, linear, flat or folded (sometimes loosely so), veins parallel. Blade adaxial surface glabrous or scabrous (at leaf tips). Blade margins scabrous (scaberulous).

Reproductive morphology. Plants monoecious. Flowering stems triangular in cross section. Flowering stems shorter than the leaves, or about as high as the leaves, or conspicuously taller than the leaves; with leaves. Leaf or reduced bract subtending the base of the inflorescence absent. Inflorescences spicate, or head-like, or a spike of spikes (a single spike in appearance, but composed of (1-)3–7 essentially indistinguishable, tightly aggregated spikes, in a dense ovoid to hemispheric head); globose or sub-globose; 0.5–1.4(–2) cm long; 4.5–9 mm wide. Pedicels present (branches at the top of the flowering stem). Cladoprophylls absent. Inflorescence multispicate. Inflorescence 2–5(–7) spikes (essentially indistinguishable in a dense ovoid head). Individual spike(s) erect. Terminal spike staminate at the apex. Floral scales shorter than the perigynium in fruit (apex mucronate); brown; with margins and sometimes midvein paler in colour than the adjacent area of the scale (margins translucent, the surface between brown); lanceolate; 2.5–3 mm long; 1.6–2 mm wide; glabrous (shiny and somewhat translucent); apex obtuse, or acute. Flowers unisexual. Staminate flowers inconspicuous (3–5 flowers at top of each spike). Perianth represented by a perigynium. Stamens present (staminate flowers), or absent (pistillate flowers); 3. Anthers 1.2–1.5 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Perigynia contracted at the base into a stipe. Stipes 0.2–0.7 mm long. Styles 2; partially fused; slender, not extending beyond the beak. Stigmas per ovary 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit surrounded by a perigynium. Perigynia with a slit running down the beak on the abaxial side through which the style protrudes; broadly ovate; 3–4.5(–5) mm long; (1.4–)1.6–2.3(–2.7) mm wide; erect or ascending (but divergent at maturity); straw-coloured (proximally), or brown (on the beak); leathery (or papery); surface dull; glabrous, or hairy (scabrous near the neck); appearing veinless, or faintly veined (essentially veinless adaxially); inflated (somewhat); with 2 keels; apices beaked with a long beak (about 0.5 mm long); apex not bidentate or oblique (scabrous near the neck of the perigynia). Fruit sessile; dry; an achene; indehiscent. Achenes lenticular; not filling the upper part of the perigynia. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n = 60.

2n = 60. Flovik (1943, Svalbard); Holmen (1952, Greenland); Löve and Löve (1956, Iceland; 1965); Löve (1981d, northern Canada); Jakobsen in Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Lövkvist in Weimarck (1963, Sweden); Löve and Ritchie (1966, central Canada); Knaben and Engelskjøn (1967, southern Norway); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1971, Wrangel Island); Petrovsky and Zhukova (1983).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: around the margins of ponds, marshes, along streams (sometimes on mossy banks), river terraces (often near the mouth of a river in halophytic communities), tundra (marshy), seashores (estuaries and lagoons, wet flats, sandy or gravelly beaches); imperfectly drained moist areas, dry; gravel, sand, silt (sometimes salt encrusted), clay; calcareous, or halophytic. Commonly a littoral species of wet places, although it has been noted to grow up to 2000 feet or more (CAN 223325). Often found in calcareous well-drained areas. Near the sea, it often forms dense mats in wet, flooded beaches.

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Common. Coastal. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, and Parry islands (Melville), Banks, Victoria, King William, Southampton, and Coats.

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar, or circumboreal. Northern Iceland, Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Yamal–Gydan, Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Anabar–Olenyok, Kharaulakh, Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. Polunin (1940) observed that this species varies so much, especially in vegetative characters, that a number of varieties and forms have been erected, and while he did not feel these were appropriate, as there are all stages of gradation from one to another, he recognised one "phase" as C. maritima f. inflata (Simmons) Polunin. He also felt that there was one variety (which even if it is a mere reduction phase) that was so strikingly different in its extreme depauperation and generally High Arctic habitat from the robust plant of the south that he separated it as C. maritima var. setina (Christ) Fernald. This has not been taken up here. Photographs in the image library illustrate some of the range of variation we have recorded.

Reznicek (2002, p. 310) indicated that C. maritima "is an extremely widespread and variable species. On exposed headlands, plants can be very tiny in contrast to robust individuals on richer river shores or some inland lakeshores. Very small plants with extremely narrow leaves from coastal regions of Newfoundland have been named C. maritima var. setina, and unusually large plants from the shores of Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory, have been named C. maritima subsp. yukonensis. These are both regarded as environmentally derived, representing two extremes in the variation."

Illustrations. • Habitat: Dorset. Tangled, prostrate plants with black ball-like heads, growing close to a saline meadow in the valley surburb of Cape Dorset. When plants were found beside roads in other parts of the hamlet, there was a strong suggestion that sand had been moved from nearer the sea. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 5 August. 2005. No voucher. • Habitat. Plants growing in sandy gravel. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Aiken 97–039. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Close-up of plants. Compact plants with numerous head-like inflorescences. Plants growing in a saline meadow. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Franklin Pierce Bay, 7926'N, 7538'W. Aiken 98–027. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. CAN. • Close-up of plant. Note long rhizomes and peduncle without a cladoprophyll, characteristic of subgenus Vignea. Drawing by Mrs. S. Bergh and Mrs. L. Barstad based on herbarium specimen. Svalvard, Dickkson Land, Dickson Bay, Kulmdalen, J. Lid. 12 August, 1924. O. With permission of the Botanical Museum, University of Oslo, Norway. • Close-up of inflorescence. Head-like inflorescence of several compact spikes with staminate flowers at the top of each spike and two stigmas per perigynium. Plants growing in saline meadow. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Franklin Pierce Bay, 7926'N, 7538'W. Aiken 98–027. CAN. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Close-up of inflorescence. Inflorescence with mature perigynia spreading away from the axis. The floral scales are shorter than the perigynia at maturity. Note the perigynia with two keels, the apices beaked with long beaks, and the lenticular perigynia. CAN 485194. • Close-up of perigynia. Beaked perigynia with a distinct stipe, the "stalk" below the perigynia. • Arctic Island Distribution.


This publication is available on the internet (posted May 2011) and on CD-ROM (published in 2007). These versions are identical in content, except that the errata page for CD-ROM is accessible on the main index page of the web version.

Recommended citation for the web-based version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. http://nature.ca/aaflora/data, accessed on DATE.

Recommended citation for the CD-ROM version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [CD-ROM] NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.

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