Culms to 90 cm × 2 mm, scabrous. Leaves: sheath fronts spotted red-brown, veinless, plane, apex truncate to convex, membranous; ligule rounded, to 1 mm, free limb to 0.2 mm; blades to 75 cm × 6 mm, shorter than flowering stem. Inflorescences loosely paniculate, 4-12 cm × 15-20 mm, with 10-20 branches proximal branches distinct; the proximal internode to 25 mm; bracts scalelike, not conspicuous, the awn, when present, 15-50 mm. Scales hyaline, red-brown or pale brown, margins colorless, broad, shining, apex acute or mucronate. Anthers with prominent apiculus to 0.5 mm. Perigynia dark brown-black, 3-5-veined abaxially, 0-3-veined adaxially, body ovate to lanceolate, 3-4.5 × 1.5-2 mm, base rounded to cordate, conspicuous basal spongy tissue somewhat distending perigynium; beak 1-1.5 mm. Achenes red-brown, ovate, 1.2-1.5 × 1-1.2 mm, glossy; style base cylindric.
Fruiting Jul-Aug. Stream banks, springs, seeps in desert regions; 600-2700 m; Ariz., Calif., Nev., N.Mex., Tex.; Mexico (Baja California, Sonora).
Carex alma has an unusual combination of characteristics for the section. The conspicuous basal sheaths, the basally spongy perigynia tapering to beak, the hyaline acute scales, and the cylindricly enlarged style bases place the species closer to sect. Vulpinae than to other taxa of sect. Multiflorae. Carex agrostoides, here placed in synonymy with C. alma, has previously been distinguished by the green perigynia and absence of basal spongy tissue. All such specimens, including the type, appear to be immature specimens of C. alma in which spongy tissue and mature perigynium coloration have not developed.
Martin and Hutchins 1980, Kearney and Peebles 1969
Common Name: grassleaf sedge Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Graminoid General: Densely clustered with stems to 80 cm tall, scaberulous. Vegetative: Leaves stiff, involute toward the apex, long attenuate. Inflorescence: Numerous spikes that are androgynous, borne in elongated, irregular head with lower spikes typically separated from the rest of the head, pistillate scales green and 3-nerved in the center to nearly white, hyaline on the margins, greenish-yellow or pale brown between, nearly equaling perigynia, perigynia short-stipitate at base, nerveless or nearly so, tapering into white-tipped beak; achenes lenticular. Ecology: Found in dry sites from 4,000-5,000 ft (1219-1524 m); flowers March-June. Notes: Recently circumscribed Carex agrostoides as a synonym according to FNA, however Licher and Rink 2012 argue that southern Arizona species should be subsumed into C. chihuahuensis instead. (Notes: Max Licher and Glenn Rink 2012) Ethnobotany: Unknown Etymology: Carex is the classical Latin name for the genus, while alma means nourishing or beautiful. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley, 2010