Carex comans


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.
comans: like a luxurious head of hair

Common Name(s)


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 comans Bergg.



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 pulchella Bergg., C. cheesemanii Petrie, C. comans var. pulchella (Bergg.) C.B.Clarke in Cheeseman, C. comans var. cheesemanii (Petrie) Kük.


Endemic. New Zealand: North, South and Stewart Islands.


Coastal to subalpine. Usually in free draining soils either in the open or under scrub or tall forest in relatively open sparsely vegetated situations. It often naturalises in urban areas.


Tufts very dense, very leafy, red, yellow-green, or lime-green. Culms 60-400 mm long, < 1 mm diameter, terete, glabrous, flaccid, occasionally much elongating at maturation of fruit and drooping to the ground; basal sheaths dull brown to purple-black. Leaves usually > culms, 0.5-1.5 mm wide, drooping above, concavo-convex, adaxial surface matt, abaxial surface more deeply coloured and shining, margins scabrid, tips rarely curled. Spikes 4-8, linear-oblong; terminal 1(-2) spikes male, very slender; remaining spikes female occasionally with a few male flowers at the base, 5–25 × 3–4 mm, distant, the uppermost 1–2 sessile, the lower on filiform peduncles, often drooping. Glumes (excluding awn) often slightly < utricles, ovate-lanceolate, usually emarginate to more deeply bifid at the top with a rather short scabrid awn, light brown or reddish brown with a paler midrib, membranous. Utricles 2.5–3.5 × c.1.0 mm, unequally biconvex to ± plano-convex, lanceolate, elliptic-lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, reddish brown, pale straw-coloured at the base, obscurely ribbed on both faces, becoming smooth when fully mature, lateral nerves usually prominent, margins of upper half sharply serrate, narrowed above to a bifid beak c.1 mm long, with slender scabrid crura. Stigmas 3. Nut 1.5–2 mm. long, trigonous, ovoid to oblong-ovoid, dark brown.

Similar Taxa

Carex comans is a very distinct species easily recognised by its densely tufted growth habit, narrow, concavo-convex leaves, slender light brown pedunculate spikes and the sharply toothed utricle-beaks with long crura. It is most similar to, and most often confused with C. albula Allan and C. fretailis Hamlin (see under those species)


Throughout the year


Throughout the year

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by division of established plants. Three colour forms exist, the red and green forms are the most widely cultivated. Often naturalises in urban areas and at times can become invasive. Tolerant of a wide range of conditions except permanently waterlogged soils. However does best in full sun in a free draining soil.


Not Threatened - often naturalised in urban areas

Chromosome No.

2n = 40

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).

Where To Buy

Commonly available from mainline and specialist native plant nurseries.

Cultural Use/Importance

Carex comans is very variable, and red and green colour forms are known. Some confusion exists around the cultivar C. comans cv. Frosted Curls which, at least in the original form is actually C. fretalis Hamlin. However, many plants now sold as that cultivar are now the green-form of C. comans.



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