Carex spectabilis Herbaceous Alliance
Showy sedge sod

USDA Ecological Section Map

Summary Information

  • Primary Life FormHerb
  • Elevation1800-3700 m
  • State RarityS3
  • Global RarityG4
  • DistributionCAN: AB, BC. USA: CA, MT, OR, WA (NatureServe)
  • Endemic to CaliforniaNo
  • Endemic to California Floristic Province and DesertsNo
  • Date Added2009/09/01

Characteristic Species

Carex spectabilis is dominant or co-dominant in the herbaceous layer with Agrostis variabilis, Antennaria media, Arnica amplexicaulis, Bistorta bistortoides, Carex heteroneura, Carex vernacula, Juncus mertensianus, Melica bulbosa, Mimulus tilingii, Penstemon heterodoxus, Phleum alpinum, Poa fendleriana, Poa secunda, Poa wheeleri, Potentilla flabellifolia, Rumex paucifolius, Saxifraga bryophora, Senecio triangularis, Sibbaldia procumbens, Stellaria calycantha, Trisetum spicatum and Veronica wormskjoldii. Emergent shrubs may be present at low cover, including Phyllodoce breweri, Ribes cereum, Sambucus racemosa or Spiraea splendens.

Vegetation Layers

Herbs < 90 cm; cover is continuous.

Membership Rules

  • Carex spectabilis > 50% relative cover in the herbaceous layer (Keeler-Wolf et al. 2003b, NatureServe 2007).


Banks of high-gradient ephemeral streams with deep snow packs, saturated rocky areas near summer snow banks, and seasonally saturated rocky areas. Soils are temporarily flooded in the spring during snowmelt and may be saturated during the growing season. The USFWS Wetland Inventory (1996 national list) recognizes Carex spectabilis as a FACW plant.

Other Habitat, Alliance and Community Groupings

MCV (1995) Alpine habitat
NVCS (2009) Carex spectabilis herbaceous alliance
Calveg Wet grasses and forbs, Perennial grasses and forbs
Holland Sierra Nevada fell-field, Alpine snowbank margin
Munz Alpine fell-fields
WHR Alpine dwarf-shrub, Wet meadow
CDFW CA Code 45.155.00

National Vegetation Classification Hierarchy

Formation Class Cryomorphic Shrub and Herb Vegetation (Polar and High Montane Vegetation)
Formation Subclass Temperate and Boreal Alpine Vegetation
Formation Alpine Scrub, Forb Meadow, and Grassland
Division Western North America Alpine Scrub, Forb Meadow, and Grassland
Macro Group Vancouverian Alpine Scrub, Forb Meadow, and Grassland
Group Vancouverian snowbank turf