Page authors: Don Knoke, David Giblin
Carex macrocephala
bighead sedge
Female inflorescence.
Male inflorescences.

Distribution: Occurring west of the Cascades crest along the coast in Washington; Alaska to Oregon; northern Pacific Rim.

Habitat: Sandy saltwater beaches and dunes.

Flowers: June-July

Origin: Native

Growth Duration: Perennial

Conservation Status: Not of concern

Pollination: Wind


Perennial grass-like herb to 30 cm tall, from buried rhizomes.


narrow, grass-like, to over 30 cm long, from base of stem.


Tiny and inconspicuous, lacking petals, with male and femal flowers on separate plants; in large dense spikes 3-8 cm long at tip of stem.


Achene, enclosed by a papery sheath (perigynia)

Identification Notes:

A very distinctive species for a sedge; its coastal habitat and large dense spikes are unmistakable.

Accepted Name:
Carex macrocephala Willd. ex Spreng.
Publication: Syst. Veg. 3: 808. 1826.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
Carex anthericoides J. Presl & C. Presl
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Carex macrocephala in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database

WA Flora Checklist: Carex macrocephala checklist entry

OregonFlora: Carex macrocephala information

E-Flora BC: Carex macrocephala atlas page

CalPhotos: Carex macrocephala photos

28 photographs:
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