Species Profile

Foothill Sedge

Scientific Name: Carex tumulicola
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2008
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This perennial species is known from 10 localized and highly fragmented sites in southwestern British Columbia where it occurs in meadows and shrub thickets within Garry oak ecosystems, a critically imperiled habitat in Canada. The total Canadian population likely consists of fewer than 1000 mature individuals. Factors such as competition and habitat degradation from invasive alien plants, altered fire regimes, urbanization, trampling and mowing place the species at risk.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 2008.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2010-02-23

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents


The Foothill Sedge is a perennial that usually grows in loose tufts up to 80 cm in height. Its rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) are short. The leaves are 1 to 2.5 mm wide and flat. There are two to three leaves per stem. The stems, which arise in circular clusters with less dense centres, are taller than the leaves. Each stem bears three to ten flower spikes. The spikes are small and few-flowered. The male flowers grow above the female flowers on the same spike, and the spikes are loosely clustered into a flower head. Small leaves, called bracts, subtend the spikes. The bracts are well developed and bristly, with the lower ones generally being longer than the flowers. The female flowers are pale green to pale brown and 3.5 to 5 mm long. The base of the female flower is encased in small brown scales with a green mid-vein. The achene, the smooth, small dry fruit, is 1.8 to 2.2 mm long. It is completely encased in the sac that contained the ovary.


Distribution and Population

The range of the Foothill Sedge extends from southwestern British Columbia to Oregon and central California. The Foothill Sedge has been reported in Idaho, but this observation has not been confirmed. In Canada, it is known from only the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island. Most known Canadian populations are located in or near Victoria. The Foothill Sedge was first collected in Canada in 1990, but intensive searching for the species did not begin until 1999. By 2006, about 70 patches distributed among 10 populations had been reported. In two cases, the populations consist of a single tussock, possibly representing a single individual. Other populations are composed of single or scattered patches. Because the species spreads from rhizomes, it is virtually impossible to determine if the plants are single individuals or several individuals, and obtaining reliable population counts is therefore difficult. However, the total population likely numbers fewer than 1000 plants. Because the Foothill Sedge was discovered very recently in Canada, it is unclear whether this species has always been rare on southeastern Vancouver Island or whether it has undergone a recent dramatic decline.



In Canada, the Foothill Sedge grows in a very restricted area on the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island. This region lies within the rain shadow of the Vancouver Island Ranges and the Olympic Mountains and is characterized by a sub-Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The Foothill Sedge has been observed in meadows and open woodlands that are moist in the spring in stands dominated by Garry Oak, a critically imperilled habitat in Canada. It is estimated that 95% of the Garry oak ecosystem has disappeared over the last 100 years as a result of agricultural and urban development. Habitats suitable for the Foothill Sedge were probably never as abundant as Garry oak ecosystems in general, but they have undoubtedly experienced a decline at least as sharp as that of the Garry oak ecosystems, since pressure from residential and commercial development is particularly strong in coastal areas, the species’ preferred habitat. In addition, most of the remaining suitable habitat has been heavily altered by exotic plants.



Little information is available on the biology of the Foothill Sedge. However, it is known that this perennial flowers in May and June and produces fruit (achenes) in mid- to late summer. As with all sedges, the flowers are pollinated by the wind. Seeds are released in late summer or in fall and are dispersed primarily by gravity, since the seeds do not possess any specialized dispersal mechanism. However, birds appear to play some role in dispersal. It is not known how long the seeds of this sedge remain viable in the soil, but some species in this genus have been shown to form persistent soil seed banks. The timing of germination is also unknown, but presumably it occurs in the spring, following the onset of the winter rains. In addition to reproducing sexually by seed, the Foothill Sedge spreads vegetatively from short rhizomes and it establishes readily from rhizome fragments. It appears able to tolerate high moisture levels in the winter and very low moisture levels in the summer, and it is adapted to either sun or shade.



In British Columbia, the main threat to the Foothill Sedge is habitat loss due to urbanization. Southeastern Vancouver Island, to which Canadian populations are restricted, is experiencing one of the most rapid rates of urban expansion in North America. In one population, habitat has been lost because of erosion. Aside from habitat loss, the species is at continued risk from such factors as competition from exotic plants. Garry oak stands, where the various Foothill Sedge populations are found, have been invaded by non-native species to such a degree that invasive alien species now comprise 59 to 82% of the existing plants. Fire suppression is another factor threatening the survival of the Foothill Sedge. In the past, natural fires and fires started by people played an important role in the maintenance of dry forests, such as Garry oak stands. Fires slowed the succession of trees and shrubs and ensured the continued presence of safe sites for the germination and establishment of herbaceous meadow plants, such as the Foothill Sedge. All terrain-vehicle traffic is another imminent threat to a few of the Canadian populations. Even one carelessly laid vehicle track could do irreparable harm. Finally, three Foothill Sedge populations are located at the edges of well-used walking trails where trampling could pose a threat to plant growth or even survival.



Federal Protection

The Foothill Sedge is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

In British Columbia, Foothill Sedge is not protected under any provincial statute. The populations located in a national park are protected under the Canada National Parks Act. Others are found on Department of National Defence property, which is federal land protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Foothill Sedge (Carex tumulicola) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team

  • Conan Webb - Chair/Contact - Parks Canada
    Phone: 250-478-5153  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

13 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Foothill Sedge (2008-11-26)

    This perennial species is known from 10 localized and highly fragmented sites in southwestern British Columbia where it occurs in meadows and shrub thickets within Garry oak ecosystems, a critically imperiled habitat in Canada. The total Canadian population likely consists of fewer than 1000 mature individuals. Factors such as competition and habitat degradation from invasive alien plants, altered fire regimes, urbanization, trampling and mowing place the species at risk.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Foothill Sedge (Carex tumulicola) in Canada (2013-06-21)

    The Canadian population of Foothill Sedge (Carex tumulicola Mack.) was assessed as Endangered in 2008 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and in February 2010 the species was listed as Endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, affording it legal protection. Foothill Sedge is a tufted, grass-like perennial plant with drab green flowers. It is restricted to western North America from southern British Columbia to central California. Within its range, Foothill Sedge occurs in upland prairies, dry to moist meadows, and in openings in Garry Oak woodlands. Globally, the species is listed as "apparently secure".

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada (2018-08-01)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR). The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits to other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at GINPR.

Critical Habitat Statements


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 (2008-08-28)

    2008 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#FRH-2016-21599-SARA ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2016-06-01)

    Parks Canada will collect seeds or other propagules, grow plants in a nursery, prepare and maintain translocation sites and out-plant the resulting stock to suitable sites at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and or Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site to increase populations of a number of species at risk in coastal sand dune and Garry Oak ecosystems, as per the recovery strategies for the species.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#GINP-2020-37539), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2020-04-01)

    This is a conservation and restoration project for species at risk at the Parks Canada Coastal British Columbia Field Unit. The project aims to increase the supply of propagative material for a number of plant species at risk within the field unit; implement recovery actions outlined in Parks Canada's multi-species action plans for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site; and improve knowledge on the best practices for the propagation, enhancement, translocation and habitat management of these species at risk. Propagative material (seed and rhizome) will be collected from species at risk in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve from May through October and will be sown outdoors in the Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site conservation nursery from September through March. Propagative material from Coastal Scouler's Catchfly and Golden Paintbrush will be collected from populations on Mini D'Arcy Islet. Propagative material from Contorted-pod Evening-primrose will be collected from the population on Sidney Island. Contorted-pod Evening primrose may be affected by some localized trampling of the species and Common Nighthawk may be flushed from their nests. This project specifically addresses the species threats outlined in the recovery strategies and is believed necessary to secure the persistence of these plant species in Canada.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-PYR-2010-0149), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-06-16)

    The proposed activity is to continue mowing the fire break at Canadian Forces Ammunition Deport (CFAD) Rocky Point/Esquimalt, while managing for a newly discovered plant species at risk, Foothill Sedge. The activity of mowing will take place within the established ammunition depot zone at CFAD Rocky Point. Foothill Sedge (carex turmulicola) is abundant both inside and outside of the mowed area.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species (2009-01-30)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 20, 2009 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 19, 2010 for species undergoing extended consultations.


  • Public Registry Notice for s.83 Exceptions - CFB Esquimalt (2015-03-06)

    Operations directed to ensuring that training areas are sustainable for activities related to national defence/security. Specifically, the exceptions apply to activities for the control and management of vegetation that interferes with, or restricts, training.
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