Ceratocephala pungens


pungens: sharp-pointed

Common Name(s)

None known

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Critical

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Threatened - Nationally Critical
2004 - Threatened - Nationally Critical


2012 - DP, EF
2009 - EF, DP


Ceratocephala pungens Garn.-Jones



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Herbs other than Composites




Endremic. South Island, Mackenzie Basin and Central Otago. Formerly known from the upper Waitaki River where it appears to be extinct.


A species of dry open ground, often amongst scabweed (Raoulia spp.) matts.


Tiny, tufted, rossett-forming, annual herb 1.5-2 cm tall. Leaves 4-8 x 3-10 mm, grey-green, finely woolly-hairy, spathulate in outline, trilobed, each lobe divided 2-3 times, into oblong segments. Flowers solitary, unstalked or on short stalks 2-5 mm long. Sepals 4-5 mm, linear-oblanceolate, woolly beneath. Petals yellow, as long as sepals, linear-oblanceolate. Achenes (fruits) 20-30, 3-4 x 1.5 mm, woolly-hairy; keel flattened, triangular, beak 1-1.5 mm, erect, straight and slender, tapering into a spine.

Similar Taxa



October - December

Flower Colours



November - March

Propagation Technique

Difficult. Should not be removed from the wild.


At serious risk of extinction. The open scabweed habitats this species requires have, following the near demise of rabbits (as a consequence of the release of Rabbit calcivirus) been replaced by taller introduced and indigenous grasses. These grasses have all but replaced the relatively open habit Ceratocephala requires, so quickly that whole populations have disappeared within one growing season. If this trend continues unchecked then Ceratocephala pungens is likely to become extinct within the next 5-10 years.

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Spiny achenes are dispersed by attachment and possibly granivory (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Not commercially available.

Cultural Use/Importance

This unusual species is the only southern hemisphere representative of an otherwise northern hemisphere genus.



Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 1 September 2003. Description adapted from Garnock-Jones (1984) - see also de Lange et al. (2010).

References and further reading

de Lange, P.J.; Heenan, P.B.; Norton, D.A.; Rolfe, J.R.; Sawyer, J.W.D. 2010: Threatened Plants of New Zealand. Christchurch, Canterbury University Press. 471pp.

Garnock-Jones, P.J. 1984: Ceratocephalus pungens (Ranunculaceae), a new species from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 22: 135-137

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 2 Jun 2014