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S. Galen Smith, except as noted

Annual, perennial herb, often rhizomed or stoloned, often of wet open places; roots fibrous; monoecious, dioecious, or flowers bisexual. Stem: generally 3-sided, generally solid. Leaf: generally 3-ranked; base sheathing, sheath generally closed, ligule generally 0; blade (0 or) linear, parallel-veined. Inflorescence: spikelets generally arranged in head-, spike-, raceme-, or panicle-like inflorescences; flower generally sessile in axil of flower bract, enclosed in a sac-like structure (perigynium) or generally not. Flower: unisexual or bisexual, small, generally wind-pollinated; perianth 0 or generally bristle like; stamens generally 3, anthers attached at base, 4 chambered; ovary superior, chamber 1, ovule 1, style 2–3-branched. Fruit: achene, 2–3 sided.
± 100 genera, 5000 species: especially temperate. [Gilmour et al. 2013 Kew Bull 68:85–105] Difficult; taxa differ in technical characters of inflorescence, fruit. In Carex and Kobresia, what appear to be individual pistillate flowers in fact are highly reduced inflorescences (whether or not the same applies to staminate flowers is still under debate). In some other works (e.g., FNANM) these are called spikelets, and they are treated as being arranged in spikes. Here and in TJM (1993), what appear to be individual pistillate flowers are called pistillate flowers in Carex (and they are treated as being arranged in spikelets), but spikelets in Kobresia (and they are treated as being arranged into spikes). Though internally inconsistent, the approach here is consistent with traditional usage, and reflects a preference for character states that may be determined in the field. Molecular, morphological, and embryological evidence indicates that Eriophorum crinigerum is to be segregated to a new genus, as Calliscirpus criniger (A. Gray) C.N. Gilmour et al., along with a second, newly described species, Calliscirpus brachythrix C.N. Gilmour et al. (Gilmour et al. 2013); key to genera modified by Peter W. Ball to include Calliscirpus. —Scientific Editors: S. Galen Smith, Thomas J. Rosatti, Bruce G. Baldwin.
Unabridged references: [Ball et al. 2002 FNANM 23:1–608; Bruhl 1995 Australian Syst Bot 8:125–305; Tucker 1987 J Arnold Arbor 68:361–445;]

Key to Cyperaceae

Annual, perennial herb, generally forming mats, glabrous, internal air cavities evident; caudex generally 0; rhizomes generally evident, long, scaly, bulb or tuber at tip generally 0. Stem: simple, generally erect, smooth, generally not hollow; tip generally not rooting. Leaf: 2, basal, blades 0 or tooth-like, <= 1 mm. Inflorescence: inflorescence bracts 0; spikelet terminal, 1, generally ovate, not ± flat [(± flat)], generally not forming plantlets, flowers 3–100+; flower bracts spiraled [(2-ranked)], each with 1 flower in axil, generally ovate, generally brown, generally membranous, smooth, tip generally acute to obtuse, notch 0; basal flower bract generally encircling stem, generally < 1/2 spikelet, flower generally 0. Flower: bisexual; perianth parts reduced to bristles, 0–8, generally ± <= fruit, barbs generally recurved; stamens generally 3; style 1, thread-like, base enlarged, generally persistent on fruit as tubercle. Fruit: generally obovate, generally brown; tubercle (0 or) generally distinct, generally pyramidal.
Wetland obligates.
± 200 species: tropics to boreal. (Greek: marsh-dwelling grace) [Smith et al. 2002 FNANM 23:60–120] Eleocharis lanceolata Fernald, Eleocharis equisetoides Torr. not in California.
Unabridged etymology: (Greek heleios, dwelling in a marsh, and Charis, grace)

Key to Eleocharis

E. quinqueflora (Hartmann) O. Schwarz
Perennial herb 5–30 cm, forming small mats, stem-tuft base generally swollen, often with bulbs, 2-veined scales present or not; rhizome 0.5–1 mm diam, weak, tip often with bulb 3–11 mm, 1–5 mm wide, ovate; caudex 0 or present. Stem: 0.2–0.8 mm diam, cylindric. Leaf: distal sheath firm, persistent, tip ± truncate to acute. Inflorescence: spikelet 4–8 mm, 1.5–4 mm wide, or 0; flower bracts 3–8, 2.5–6 mm, basal >= 1/2 spikelet, with flower or not. Flower: anthers 1–2.5 mm; stigmas 3. Fruit: 1.3–2.3 mm, 0.8–1.4 mm wide, 3-sided, smooth or fine-longitudinal-ridged, distally tapered, tip often beak-like; tubercle often merging with fruit; perianth bristles (0)3–6(7), vestigial to equaling tubercle.
Uncommon, local. Wet meadows, fens, seeps, shores; 40–3600 m. Klamath Ranges, Inner North Coast Ranges, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, Sacramento Valley, Outer South Coast Ranges, San Bernardino Mountains, San Jacinto Mountains, Great Basin Floristic Province; to Alaska, eastern Canada, Greenland, New Jersey; Eurasia. [Eleocharis pauciflora (Lightf.) Link] 2 additional taxa possibly to be named in California; study needed. Spring–summer [Online Interchange]
Unabridged note: The names Eleocharis quinqueflora and Eleocharis pauciflora, both from Europe, need typification. Some variants may deserve recognition as species or infraspecific taxa; in California these are: plants at lower elev, especially in Sacramento Valley, with many large bulbs on rhizome tips (formed only where soil is drying) but no fruit and often no spikelets, which apparently intergrade (at elevations to 3000 m, to Oregon, Montana and AZ) with plants with smaller bulbs and with spikelets and often with fruit; plants at > 1700 m in Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range (Mount Lassen) and San Bernardino Co., known only from California, which differ consistently in their hard caudices, spikelet with only 3–4 flowers, basal flower bract without a flower, and flower bracts only 2.5–4 mm, generally dark chestnut-colored. Bulbs probably eaten by native Americans in White Mountains, Inyo Co.

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Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2013. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Mar 29 2015
Citation for this treatment: [Author of taxon treatment] 2013. Eleocharis, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Mar 29 2015

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click for enlargement Eleocharis quinqueflora
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© 2006 Steve Matson

Geographic subdivisions indicated for the distribution of Eleocharis quinqueflora Markers link to CCH specimen records. If the markers are obscured, reload the page [or change window size and reload]. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.
map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).

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Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
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CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time.