Carex montana

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCyperaceaeCarexCarex montana


This perennial herb was thought to be confined to rough, open grassland on limestone. However, recent studies have shown that it grows at these sites only where non-calcareous drift overlays the calcareous bedrock, and it can in fact thrive in neutral to acidic grassland, on heathland and in woodland rides, often in partial shade. Generally lowland, but reaching 560 m at Carreg yr Ogof (Carms.).



World Distribution

European Temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe; also in C. and E. Asia.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 4

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 1

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1193

Height (cm): 35

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Rhizome shortly creeping

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 48

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.68

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Carex montana L.

Soft-leaved sedge

Status: scarce


A plant of neutral to acidic grasslands, and in light shade in woodlands. The underlying rock is often Carboniferous limestone, or basic rocks such as serpentine (at the Lizard Peninsula), but usually the solid rock is covered with a layer of non-calcareous ‘drift’ (probably of aeolian origin; this is the case in its Mendip and Wye Valley sites). In the New Forest it is relatively common in heathland and woodpasture. It has recently been found in quantity in Erica vagans heath on the Lizard Peninsula. Although mainly a lowland species, it is found at 560 metres on Carreg yr Ogof. 

C. montana is a perennial species. It appears incapable of re-rooting after disturbance, and regeneration is only by seed which, except in heavily shaded sites, is set abundantly.

It is very local, but often extremely abundant where it occurs. Its sites are less susceptible to trampling than those of C. humilis which sometimes grows nearby on calcareous soils, but at Symonds Yat one site of C. montana has been severely damaged by abseiling from the edge of a cliff. The original British station in Sussex was destroyed by building in 1969-71.

In Europe C. montana is not found further north than England, southern Sweden and central Russia, or further south than northern Spain, Corsica, northern Italy, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. It also occurs in the Caucasus, Urals and east Siberia.

Detailed accounts of its British distribution were provided by David (1977, 1982a) but since then the species has been discovered in Cornwall and many new sites have been found in Hampshire.


R. W. David