54. Carex melanantha C. A. Mey., Fl. Alt. 4: 216. 1833; Ledeb., Icon. Fl. Ross., impr. Alt., 4: 317. 1833; C.B.Clarke, l.c. 79; Ovcz., Fl. Tadjik. SSR 2: tab. 24. 1963; R.R.Stewart, l.c. 79. 1972; Kukkonen in Rech.f., l.c. 275.
Perennial, 10-60 cm. Rhizome short, covered by grey or yellow scales, emitting short stolons. Stem straight or base ascending, trigonous, smooth, papillose above. Leaves shorter or equalling stem length, rigid, sometimes slightly falcate; sheaths 20-40 mm, grey or yellow, darker and fibrous with age, margin of scarious side straight; ligule c. 0.2 mm, hardly arched; blades 2.5-5(-7) mm wide, flat, grey-green densely papillose below, scabrous towards apex. Inflorescence of 3-7 spikes, grouped closely together or lowest occasionally remote, terminal spike male or several of upper spikes androgynous. Bracts shorter than inflorescence, sheath-less. Male spikes 8-15 x 4-8 mm, ellipsoid or club-shaped; male glumes 6-6.5 x 1.3-1.5 mm, oblong, acute or obtuse, dark red brown. Female spikes 6-15 x 4-7 mm, ellipsoid, compact; female glumes 4-6 x 1.3-1.4 mm, from narrow elliptic to lanceolate or ovate, acute or obtuse, dark red brown, with scarious margin; utricles 2.5-5 x 1.2-1.6 mm, ellipsoid to pyriform, pale brown to dark red brown, inflated, papillose, obscurely nerved, beak (0-)0.2-1 mm, conical, obscurely bidentate or truncate, papillose, dark red brown. Stigmas 3. Nut c. 2 x 1.3 mm, including 0.2-0.4 mm style base, parallel-sided ellipsoid or pear-shaped, triangular, grey-brown, finely reticulate.
Fl. Per.: June – August.
Type: ”Hab. in summo monte circa fontes fl. Tscharysch, in monte crucis prope Riddersk, in insulis fl. Koksun [Ledebour] et Tchuja [Bunge].” (LE!).
Moist alpine meadows, along streams, c. 3000-4700 m; Distribution: From W of Sayan Mts. in Baykal to Afghanistan and eastwards to Kashmir.
Type sheet in LE contains several gatherings, partly by Ledebour partly by Bunge. In addition, sheet contains plants named C. melananthiformis Litw. (smaller plants). The label includes several localities listed in protologue and it is impossible to assign individuals to these localities.
Dickoré (1995) distinguishes besides C. melanantha also C. moorcroftii Falc. ex Boott (Trans. Linn. Soc. 20: 140, 1851; type: Tibet, Rockhill, 15000 ft, Falconer s.n.; K) which seemingly would be in the Himalayas a more eastern, taller species) and, preferring dryer habitats, in Tibet replaces C. melanantha. Noltie (Fl. Bhutan 3,1, 1994) names only C. moorcroftii. The complex requires further study (see also Egorova 1999).
Clarke (1898), Dickoré (1995) and Kükenthal (1909) assign to C. moorcroftii the following specimens from our area:
A-7 Kargia, 4110 m, Koelz 5536 (W); B-8 Banks of Salt Lake, Tso Kar, Thomson s.n. (K); Koelz 6573 (W); B-9 Rupshu, ascent to Lanak Pass, Thomson s.n. (K); Ascent to Lanak Pass, Leh, Kardong Pass, Thomson s.n. (K).