Carex digitata

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCyperaceaeCarexCarex digitata


A perennial herb, mainly occurring in open deciduous woodland over limestone, but also found on adjacent scree, rock outcrops, and sheltered limestone pavement. It seeds freely in lightly shaded habitats but ceases to flower and dies out if the canopy becomes too closed or the site overgrown. New plants can appear from dormant seed following disturbance. Lowland.



World Distribution

European Boreo-temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe; also in E. Asia.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 5

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 8

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 4


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.3

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 859

Life form information

Height (cm): 15

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Tussock-forming graminoid, may slowly spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 39

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.04

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Carex digitata L.

Fingered sedge

Status: scarce


This sedge is locally abundant in open woods and on scree and the shaded ledges of quarries in limestone areas. It requires soil with a high calcium content (pH 7.3 - 8.0), and good drainage yet with some protection against drying out. Colonies tend to be concentrated on the broken banks at the edges of woodland rides, particularly on south-facing slopes, where they receive more light than in the wood proper. They are confined to lowland habitats. 

Individual tufts of this perennial species may not be long-lived, but they set abundant seed if not too shaded. The plant requires some shade but may disappear from a site if it becomes too densely shaded, reappearing from a dormant seed bank only after disturbance.

Some populations have been reduced in numbers or eliminated by afforestation, the destruction of limestone pavements and excessive public pressure. The Dorset record is based on a single, imprecisely localised herbarium specimen. The species as a whole is not at risk in Britain; recent survey work has revealed more sites than were previously known and the species may still be somewhat under-recorded.

It is widespread in suitable situations throughout Europe from southern Lapland to northern Spain and central Italy but absent from Greece. It extends eastward to the Caucasus and the Urals.

For a detailed account of its British distribution, see David (1978a, 1982a).


R.W. David

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (363a)
David (1978a)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jermy AC, Chater AO, David RW
1982.  Sedges of the British Isles. Botanical Society of the British Isles Handbook no. 1, edn 2.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.