Carex megalepis


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.

Common Name(s)

Bastard grass, Cavers beard

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

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 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Carex megalepis K.A.Ford



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



Uncinia ferruginea Boott; Uncinia nigra Col.; Uncinia variegata Col.; Uncinia australis Pers. var. ferruginea (Boott) C.B.Clarke; Uncinia uncinata (Linn.f.) Kük. var. ferruginea (Boott) Kük.


Endemic. New Zealand: North, South and Stewart Islands. From northern Waikato south.


Coastal to montane forest, especially in the west. Often abundant in forest overlying calcareous rocks.


Robust, yellow-green to dark green caespitose plants. Culms 100-600 × c.1 mm, glabrous; basal bracts dull brown to reddish brown. Leaves 4-8 per culm, = or > culms, 3-5 mm wide, scabrid on the margins. Spikes 70-160 × 6-10 mm, usually bracteate, female flowers c.60-100, very closely crowded throughout the whole spike, internodes 0.5-4.0 mm long. Glumes twice as long as utricles, deciduous, linear-subulate, acute or obtuse, coriaceous, dark golden yellow or rust-coloured. Utricles 4.0-5.0 × c.1.5 mm., plano-convex or rarely subtrigonous, dark brown, shining, nerved towards the base with a more strongly marked lateral nerve, sharply contracted below to a stipe 1 mm long and above to a stout beak 1.5-2.0 mm long.

Similar Taxa

Most similar to Carex corynoidea and C. uncinata, species with which it sometimes grows. Of both species it is most closely allied to C. corynoideaa from which it differs by the conspicuous dark golden yellow or rust-coloured rather than yellowish to dark brown glumes which are twice as long as the utricles (rather than equal or slightly greater in length), and by the scarcely spreading rather than widely spreading utricles. Carex uncinata differs by the usually narrower spikes, early deciduous rather than long-persistent deciduous glumes, which are usually much shorter than the utricles, and mostly < 1.0 mm diameter (cf. 1.5 mm or greater)


October - December


November - May

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by the division of established plants (though these may then take a while to settle). Does best in a permanently damp, semi-shaded site. Benefits from regular applications of lime. Should be planted where the seed heads are well out of the way of human and animal traffic!


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 88

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not Commericially Available.

Cultural use/importance

This species is known as Cavers Beard in the western Waikato because of its tendency to grow around cave entrances. In these sites the hooked utricles frequently become ensnared in cavers entering or exiting caves eliciting much comment from the ensnared caver.



Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970). Fact sheet prepared by Peter J. de Lange 17 August 2006.

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. II. Government Printer, Wellington.

This page last updated on 14 Nov 2016