Carex elata

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCyperaceaeCarexCarex elata


A tussock-forming perennial herb of oligotrophic or mesotrophic (sometimes eutrophic) marshy habitats, often calcareous, including fens, the margins of lakes, ponds, rivers and canals, ditches prone to seasonal flooding, and wet Alnus or Salix woodland. Lowland.



World Distribution

Eurasian Temperate element.

Broad Habitats

Fen, marsh and swamp (not wooded)

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 10

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.8

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.2

Annual Precipitation (mm): 903

Height (cm): 95

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Perennial hydrophyte (perennial water plant)

Life Form - secondary




Clonality - primary

Tussock-forming graminoid, may slowly spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 294

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 225

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.32

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Carex elata All.                  


Status: not scarce


This is a plant of ditches, lake- and river-sides and reed-swamps, in eutrophic conditions. It often forms extensive stands, and usually in places subject to seasonal flooding. In East Anglian reedswamps its common associates are C. acutiformis, C. riparia, Cladium mariscus and Phragmites australis.

Being a tussock-forming plant without leading rhizomes, reproduction is presumably entirely by seed. Like other members of this group of sedges it often fails to flower or set seed if water levels or other habitat factors are not right.

This perennial species has suffered from wetland drainage, and some sites are probably still vulnerable to drainage and to widening and deepening of ditches. However, many sites for C. elata are of great conservation interest and are nature reserves or designated as SSSIs and current populations seem stable.

C. elata is widespread in Europe although absent from the arctic and much of the boreal zone and very are in the Mediterranean region. It is scattered across Asia to Manchuria. Eastern populations have been distinguished as subsp. omskiana (Meinsh.) Jalas.

Because of confusion with tussock forms of C. nigra and with partially fertile hybrids with this and other members of the section Phacocystis, the exact distribution of the species requires further investigation.


R. W. David 

Atlas text references

Atlas (364a)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jermy AC, Chater AO, David RW
1982.  Sedges of the British Isles. Botanical Society of the British Isles Handbook no. 1, edn 2.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Preston CD, Croft JM
1997.  Aquatic plants in Britain and Ireland.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.