Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Carex pauciflora – few-flowered sedge


Distribution map

Click here to view an interactive map of the Northern Ireland dataset as currently collated by CEDaR.
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Carex pauciflora Light.
Family: Cyperaceae

A local and rather insignificant sedge of oligotrophic bogs in two areas of Northern Ireland.

In brief

  • Resembling a pale-fruited version of the much commoner flea sedge (Carex pulicaris)

  • Found only on the Garron Plateau in County Antrim and the Red Moss, Kilbroney, Mourne Mountains, County Down

  • Found in wet boggy conditions at fairly high altitudes

  • Best seen in June or July

  • A priority Species because it is restricted to Northern Ireland within Ireland, and is confined to two limited areas

  • The main threats are habitat modification such as drainage, or habitat destruction.

Species description
A creeping, slender, tufted, grass-like plant with very narrow leaves (only 2mm wide) and a stem which is longer than the leaves and which terminates in a loose spike of tiny male and female flowers of nondescript appearance. The female flowers eventually produce a single fruit each which is straw-coloured and pointed-oval, bent downwards. About 2 to 4 fruits per shoot are normally produced.

Life cycle
The plant has a perennial creeping rhizome which sends up annual leafy shoots, some of which produce flowering stems. Flowers are produced in May onwards and are wind-pollinated; the fertilised female flowers produce fruits in June or July.

Similar species
The only similar species is the common flea sedge (Carex pulicaris) which differs most obviously in having chestnut-brown coloured fruits rather than the pale straw colour of few-flowered sedge.

How to see this species
It can be found in very wet mires beside some small lakes on the Garron Plateau above Carnlough, County Antrim; also in a similar, very wet mire called the Red Moss in the Mourne Mountains near Rostrevor. Look for the plant when it is in fruit in June or July.

Current status
There are two areas of occurrence for few-flowered sedge, the Garron Plateau, where it occurs over a considerable area, and the Red Moss in the Mourne Mountains where it seems to be more restricted. There are no estimates of the numbers of plants for either area. It is protected under the Wildlife Order (NI) 1985.

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?

  • All the Irish sites are within Northern Ireland

  • Restricted to just two areas in Northern Ireland.

Threats/Causes of decline
The plant shows no apparent decline. The principal threats appear to be drainage of the habitat or other habitat modification.

Conservation of this species

Current action

  • The Garron Plateau sites are within a Special Area of Conservation

  • It lies within the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Proposed objectives/actions

  • Maintain the number of viable populations of the species

  • Maintain the range of the species

  • Establish appropriate management on the historic sites.

What you can do
Records of this plant are always valuable. Send to The Botanical Society of the British Isles, c/o Botany Department, National Museums Northern Ireland, 153 Bangor Road, Cultra, Co. Down, BT18 0EU or to

CEDaR, National Museums Northern Ireland, 153 Bangor Road, Cultra, Co. Down, BT18 0EU, Tel: 028 9039 5256, [at]

Further information

Flora of Northern Ireland Carex pauciflora page

Hackney, P. (1992). Stewart & Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland. 3rd edn. Institute of Irish Studies, Belfast.

Text written by:
Paul Hackney