Cyperus retrorsus

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Cyperus retrorsus
Cype retr.jpg
Photo by Dwight K. Lauer, Auburn University,
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
Order: Poales
Family: Cyperaceae
Genus: Cyperus
Species: C. retrorsus
Binomial name
Cyperus retrorsus
CYPE RETR dist.jpg
Natural range of Cyperus retrorsus from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common names: pine barren flatsedge, pineland flatsedge

Taxonomic notes

Synonyms: none[1]

Varieties: C. torreyi Britton[1]


A description of Cyperus retrorsus is provided in The Flora of North America. Cyperus retrorsus is a perennial graminoid. Most individuals are composed of 1-3 stems. [2]


C. retrorsus is natively distributed from south New York south to Florida and west to Texas. It is mostly found within the Gulf Coastal Plain, but can also be found up to Kentucky and west to southeast Oklahoma.[3]



C. retrorsus requires wet summers and dry winters.[4] It also prefers higher light levels associated with open or semi-shaded conditions, and moist to wet sandy soils. [2] It has been observed growing in a variety of related soil types, including wet sand, moist sandy peat, moist loamy sand, drying sandy soil, drying loam, peat, and dry sterile sand. [2]

As such, this species can be found in or near wet habitat like pocosin communities,[5] lake shores, phosphate pools, marshes, lakeside sinkhole berms, drained bogs, river floodplains, seepage streams, and drying wetland depressions. [2] However, it also can be found in drier areas, including flatwoods communities,[6] and longleaf pine communities.[7] Additionally, it has been found in oak-hickory forests, grassy areas on islands, turkey oak sand ridges, sandhills, live oak hammocks, dried lake bottoms, pine flatwoods-savannas, old stabilized sand dunes, prairies, open scrub, and scrub barrens. [2]

Along with being found in natural community types, C. retrorsus has been found in disturbed habitat such as cleared floodplains, roadside ditches, railways, trail edges, clear-cuts, fallow fields, borrow pits, dredge spoils, former pine plantations, orange groves, longleaf pine restoration sites, and disturbed sandhill communities. [2]

C. retrorsus has shown positive regrowth in reestablished longleaf pinelands that were disturbed by agriculture in South Carolina, making it a post-agricultural woodland indicator species.[8] C. retrorsus had no response to soil disturbance by bracke seeding, high-severity burning, and salvage logging in central Florida.[9] It was found to have a mixed response to disturbance by clearcutting in central Florida. In some areas of central Florida, the plant did not respond and in others the plant increased its cover. It sometimes showed regrowth in reestablished sand pine scrub communities that were disturbed by clearcutting.[10] Additionally, C. retrorsus increased its cover in response to single roller chopping and broadcast seeding in central Florida. It has also shown regrowth in in reestablished native scrub habitat that was disturbed by these practices.[11] It additionally increased its frequency in response to soil disturbance by clearcutting and chopping in North Florida flatwoods forests. In reestablished native flatwood habitat that was disturbed by clearcutting and chopping, the plant showed additional regrowth.[12]

Associated species include Paspalum notatum, Eupatorium mohrii, Rubus cuneifolius, Ludwigia maritima, Pityopsis, Solidago fistulosa, Aletris lutea, Eleusine, Dactyloctenium, Digitaria, Panicum, Rhynchospora fernaldii, R. fasicularis, Andropogon, Scleria reticularis, Trilisa, Liatris, Aristida, Andropogon, Bulbostylis, Clitoria, Juncus, Pteridium aquilinum, Cyperus filiculmis, Commelina erecta, Serenoa repens, Sagittaria graminea, Woodwardia virginica, Nyssa biflora, Acer rubrum, Liquidambar styraciflua, Rynchospora fernaldii, R. fascicularis, Carex longii, madien cane, and others. [2]


This species has been observed to flower between July through October.[2][13]

Seed dispersal

This species is thought to be dispersed by gravity.[14][15]

Seed bank and germination

It accounted for 29% of a late-summer Virginia pocosin seed bank.[5] It was also found viable in the seedbank in a pine flatwoods site in Florida after 8 years of fire exclusion[16] and in the seed bank of a longleaf pine community in the western panhandle region of Florida. [7]

An early 2000s study on seed bank composition found C. retrorsus to be one of five Cyperus species that were most common in both restoration and flatwoods soils; these species dominated restoration soils, accounting for 83% of new seedlings.[17]

Fire ecology

C. cyperus has been found in burned areas including recently burned slash pine-scrub flat, annually burned savanna, and frequently burned mature longleaf pine-wiregrass communities, indicating a level of fire tolerance. [2]

It responds best to a moderate-severity level burn. Recovery after fire is achieved by resprouting and seed.[4] Abundance was found to significantly decrease over 25 years after fire in a scrubby flatwoods, suggesting the significance of fire in its life history.[18]

Herbivory and toxicology

Cyperus retrorsus consists of approximately 2-5% of the diet for large mammals, and 5-10% of the diet for small mammals, water birds, and terrestrial birds.[19]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

This species is listed as endangered by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Land and Forests, and listed as extirpated by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.[20]

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Weakley, A.S. 2020. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Edition of 20 October 2020. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: June 2014. Collectors: S. W. Leonard, R.K. Godfrey, Angus Gholson, D. S. Correll, Helen B. Correll, Andre F. Clewell, Loran C. Anderson, Nancy Coile, S. W. Leonard, Richard Carter, Cecil R Slaughter, Travis MacClendon, Karen MacClendon, R. Kral, James P. Gillespie, A. H. Curtiss, O. Lakela, S. M. Tracy, Robert L. Lazor, K. Craddock Burks, R. R. Smith, Gary R. Knight, H. Kurz, Richard S. Mitchell, Grady W. Reinert, P. L. Redfearn, Jr., Allen G. Shuey, D. L. Martin, S. T. Cooper, Brenda Herring, Don Herring, William Reese, Bruce Hansen, JoAnn Hansen, Sidney McDaniel, D. B. Ward, R. A. Norris, Chris Cooksey, R. Komarek, Ann F. Johnson, Lisa Keppner, Michael Keys, and Paul Redfearn. States and Counties: Alabama: Geneva. Florida: Bay, Brevard, Calhoun, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jackson, Jefferson, Lake, Lamar, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Sumter, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington. Georgia: Grady, Liberty, and Thomas.
  3. Weakley, A. S. (2015). Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Herbarium.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Freeman, J. E. and L. N. Kobziar (2011). "Tracking postfire successional trajectories in a plant community adapted to high-severity fire." Ecological Applications 21: 61-74.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bolin, J. F. (2007). "Seed bank response to wet heat and the vegetation structure of a Virginia pocosin." Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 134: 80-88.
  6. Kalmbacher, R., N. Cellinese, et al. (2005). "Seeds obtained by vacuuming the soil surface after fire compared with soil seedbank in a flatwoods plant community." Native Plants Journal 6: 233-241.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ruth, A. D., S. Jose, et al. (2008). "Seed bank dynamics of sand pine scrub and longleaf pine flatwoods of the Gulf Coastal Plain (Florida)." Ecological Restoration 26: 19-21.
  8. Brudvig, L.A., E Grman, C.W. Habeck, and J.A. Ledvina. (2013). Strong legacy of agricultural land use on soils and understory plant communities in longleaf pine woodlands. Forest Ecology and Management 310: 944-955.
  9. Greenberg, C.H., D.G. Neary, L.D. Harris, and S.P. Linda. (1995). Vegetation Recovery Following High-intensity Wildfire and Silvicultural Treatments in Sand Pine Scrub. American Midland Naturalist 133(1):149-163.
  10. Greenberg, C.H., D.G. Neary, L.D. Harris, and S.P. Linda. (1995). Vegetation Recovery Following High-intensity Wildfire and Silvicultural Treatments in Sand Pine Scrub. American Midland Naturalist 133(1):149-163.
  11. Greenberg, C.H., D.G. Neary, L.D. Harris, and S.P. Linda. (1995). Vegetation Recovery Following High-intensity Wildfire and Silvicultural Treatments in Sand Pine Scrub. American Midland Naturalist 133(1):149-163.
  12. Moore, W.H., B.F. Swindel, and W.S. Terry. (1982). Vegetative Response to Clearcutting and Chopping in a North Florida Flatwoods Forest. Journal of Range Management 35(2):214-218.
  13. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 25 APR 2019
  14. Kirkman, L. Katherine. Unpublished database of seed dispersal mode of plants found in Coastal Plain longleaf pine-grasslands of the Jones Ecological Research Center, Georgia.
  15. Creech, M. N., et al. (2012). "Alteration and Recovery of Slash Pile Burn Sites in the Restoration of a Fire-Maintained Ecosystem." Restoration Ecology 20(4): 505-516.
  16. Maliakal, S.K., E.S. Menges and J.S. Denslow. 2000. Community composition and regeneration of Lake Wales Ridge wiregrass flatwoods in retlation to time-since-fire. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 127:125-138.
  17. Jenkins, Amy Miller. Seed banking and vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae in pasture restoration in central Florida. University of Florida. 2003.
  18. Menges, E. S. and N. M. Kohfeldt (1995). "Life History Strategies of Florida Scrub Plants in Relation to Fire." Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 122(4): 282-297.
  19. Miller, J.H., and K.V. Miller. 1999. Forest plants of the southeast and their wildlife uses. Southern Weed Science Society.
  20. USDA, NRCS. (2016). The PLANTS Database (, 25 April 2019). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.