A perennial herb of base-rich upland grasslands, particularly those flushed by calcareous springs, and moist limestone or mica-schist crags, slopes and ledges. Though it can tolerate some shading, it is generally found in open situations and short vegetation, often in species-rich communities. It is usually found at moderate or high altitudes, reaching 1035 m on Ben Lawers (Mid Perth), but it descends to sea level in N. Scotland.
The overall distribution of C. capillaris is unchanged since the 1962 Atlas.
Circumpolar Boreo-arctic Montane element.
Light (Ellenberg): 9
Moisture (Ellenberg): 6
Reaction (Ellenberg): 8
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 1.2
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 11.9
Annual Precipitation (mm): 1636
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 120
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: -0.35
Scarce Atlas Account
Carex capillaris L.
This is a montane sedge growing in short herb-rich grassland, closed marshes with low vegetation, open hummocky marshes and flushes, and on steep rock faces and ledges. It is a strict calcicole, growing especially on limestone and calcareous mica-schists, but also on lime-rich dolerite, gneiss, greywackes, sandstones and blown shell sand, Substrates vary from dry to permanently wet, though usually with some lateral water movement. C. capillaris has a wide variety of associates, from species such as C. rupestris, Dryas octopetala, Festuca vivipara, Persicaria vivipara, Potentilla crantzii, Salix reticulata, Silene acaulis and Thymus polytrichus in dry habitats; to C. dioica, Carex pulicaris, C. viridula subsp. brachyrrhyncha, C. viridula subsp. oedocarpa, Juncus triglumis, Kobresia simpliciuscula, Saxifraga aizoides, Selaginella selaginoides, Thalictrum alpinum and Tofieldia pusilla in moist situations. Its altitudinal range is from almost sea level on the north Scottish coast to at least 1025 metres on Ben Lawers.
C. capillaris is a perennial species which spreads locally by short rhizomes. Little is known of its reproduction by seed.
While it can grow in very open boreal woodland, C. capillaris may have been favoured by the destruction of forest and scrub. Although intolerant of competition from taller plants, it grows well in short swards and withstands moderate grazing; but its restriction to steep rocks in some localities suggests that this sedge may succumb to heavy grazing. In common with many calcicoles, it is adversely affected by application of fertilisers in pasture improvement. Upper Teesdale has the only large populations south of the Highlands. It is probably still present in most Scottish 10 km squares for which only pre-1970 records are available.
This is a circumpolar arctic-alpine species, occurring at sea-level on tundras in the far north but confined to high mountains further south.
D. A. Ratcliffe
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.