Carex imbecilla


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

Common Name(s)

Feeble Bastard Grass, Hook Sedge

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 imbecilla 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 gracilenta Hamlin


Endemic. New Zealand: North (from about Whangarei south) South (Marlborough Sounds, northern Marlborough, Nelson, Otago, South Canterbury, Westland, Fiordland) and Stewart Islands


Mostly montane forest, cloud forest or in subalpine scrub, often on or near rotting logs. Descending to coastal areas in the southern part of its range.


Loosely tufted, dark green or reddish-green plants. Culms 100.0-420.0 × c.0.5 mm, glabrous or rarely scabrid below inflorescence; basal sheaths dark brown, shining. Leaves 4-6 per culm, usually > culm, 1.0-2.0 mm, wide, dark green or reddish green, margins moderately scabrid. Spikes 50-70 × c.2 mm, usually bracteate, the bract leaf-like and far overtopping spike, or setose and shorter than spike, female flowers c.15-20, ± equidistant in lower part of spike with internodes to 6 mm long, c.2 mm apart above. Glumes < utricles, deciduous, acuminate, hyaline with green midrib. Utricles 4-5 × c.1mm, trigonous, elliptic-lanceolate or oblong, green, faintly nerved with the lateral nerves more prominent, scarcely spreading when ripe, stipe 1.0-1.5 mm long, beak c.1mm long.

Similar Taxa

Distinguished from other species by the glossy (shining), dark brown, basal bracts and the short, (usually hidden amongst the leaves), lax-flowered spikes with ± equidistant utricles. Carex imbecilla shares with C. erebus K.A.Ford and C. aucklandica (Hamlin) K.A.Ford dark brown basal bracts, from both these species it is distinguished by the spikes which are greater than 50 mm long. Uncinia hookeri is confined to the Subantarctic islands, and C. aucklandica the southern South Island, Stewart Island and Auckland and Campbell Islands. Carex imbecilla is potentially sympatric with only C. aucklandica, and only then in the very southern part of its range.


October - December


November - April

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by division of established plants - though these may take a while to settle. Prefers moist soil in a a semi-shaded site.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 88

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not Commercially Available


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 26 Aug 2015