Carex maritima

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCyperaceaeCarexCarex maritima


A rhizomatous perennial herb found in short vegetation in damp dune-slacks and on open sand, often close to freshwater seepages or where streams debouch onto the shore. It is mobile and can colonise new sites with suitable habitat. Populations can be very large. Lowland.



World Distribution

Circumpolar Arctic-montane element.

Broad Habitats

Supralittoral sediment (strandlines, shingle, coastal dunes)

Light (Ellenberg): 9

Moisture (Ellenberg): 8

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 3

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 12.9

Annual Precipitation (mm): 964

Height (cm): 18

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Rhizome far-creeping

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 83

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -1.34

JNCC Designations


External Species Accounts

Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Carex maritima Gunnerus

Curved sedge

Status: scarce


This sedge is found in wet sandy places by the sea. In Britain it occurs on open damp sand, often at the mouth of a stream debouching onto the beach for it requires plentiful fresh water, in wet dune slacks, and in turf beside rock pools. In dune slacks it is often found in quite dense turf provided that it is kept short by grazing livestock or rabbits. Surprisingly, the largest British colonies are on the fairways of golf-courses at St Andrews, where it is found in intermittently flooded turf (Leach 1986). Common associates are Carex distans, C. extensa, Juncus gerardii, Plantago maritima, and in slacks, Agrostis stolonifera, Carex nigra and Hydrocotyle vulgaris.

The perennial C. maritima usually forms extensive patches, spreading vegetatively by means of its long rhizomes. It may also reproduce by the abundant seed, which is planted in the soil by the bending of the mature fruit-stalk. It colonises open ground rapidly.

In Britain it is now confined to the northern and eastern coasts of Scotland. It was formerly known as far south as Blyth in the east and once seen (in 1971) at Humphrey Head in Lancashire but now is apparently extinct in both places. Many Scottish sites have been destroyed by the construction of leisure facilities such as car-parks, seaside bungalows, camping sites and golf courses, although once re-established on a golf course, the sedge may find the conditions very congenial.

C. maritima is an arctic-alpine, which is locally abundant along the whole northern coast of Europe and Asia from Iceland to Kamchatka, including the islands of Spitzbergen and Novaya Zemlya; and similarly from Greenland westward along the coasts of Canada and Alaska to British Columbia. In the Antarctic it is found on coasts near the Straits of Magellan. It also appears on the mountains of Europe (Pyrenees, Alps) in wet sandy or gravelly areas, in the Himalayas (to 4500 metres), in the Rockies as far south as Colorado, and in the southern Andes.

For a detailed account of its British distribution, see David (1982b).


R. W. David