Carex colensoi


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.
colensoi: Named after William Colenso (7 November 1811 - 10 February 1899) who was a Cornish Christian missionary to New Zealand, and also a printer, botanist, explorer and politician.

Common Name(s)

Colensos 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 colensoi Boott in Hook.f.



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



Carex picta Colenso


Endemic. North (from northern Kaimanawa Ranges south, uncommon) and South Islands


Mostly montane to subalpine in short- tussock and tall-tussock grassland. Especially common in the drier intermontane basins of the eastern South Island.


Patchy, diffuse long trailing light green, grass-like, rather slender tufted sedge arising from a long-creeping rhizome. Rhizome 2–3 mm diameter, woody, often much branched and knotted, with shoots spaced singly and evenly along it, 1.0–1.5 mm diameter at base. Culms rather variable in height, 40-450 × c.0.5 mm, trigonous, flaccid, glabrous; basal sheaths cream, grey, or light brown. Leaves usually < culms, occasionally = or > culms, 0.5–1.5 mm wide, soft, grass-like, channelled, occasionally almost flat, margins minutely serrulate just below trigonous tip. Inflorescence 10-15 mm long, of 1-4 clustered, shortly-peduncled, chestnut-brown spikes, subtended by a green, filiform, leaf-like bract, much > inflorescence, with margins minutely serrulate. Spikes androgynous, 7-10 × 2-5 mm, ovoid, male flowers at the base. Glumes = or slightly > utricles, ovate, subacute, brown, with a broad green midrib and broad silver hyaline margins. Utricles 2.5-3.5 × 1.5-2.0 mm, plano-convex, occasionally almost subtrigonous when mature, brown, shining, with nerves not distinct, margin of upper part finely scabrid; beak hardly developed, c.0.5 mm long; stipe c.0.5 mm long. Stigmas 2. Nut c.1.5 mm long, ± biconvex, elliptic-oblong to orbicular, brown with a distinct stipe c. 0.2 mm long.

Similar Taxa

Perhaps most similar to Carex inversa R.Br., from which it is distinguished by the long trailing habit, very slender, light-green rather than shortly creeping, dark to yellow-green culms topped by relatively large inflorescences composed of 1-4, clustered brown rather then 2-5 pale green to light yellow-brown spikes, bearing scarcely beaked utricles with indistinct nervation rather than prominently beaked and nerved.


October - December


November -May

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from the division of whole plants and from fresh seed. Best suited for a well drained, sunny site in dry climates. This species dislikes humidity and soon dies if kept to moist. An unusual sedge well worth cultivating.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = c.60-64

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Nuts surrounded by inflated utricles are dispersed by granivory and wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).



Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (10 August 2006). Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970)

References and further reading

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

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 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 18 Jun 2015