Carex libera


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

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 libera (Kük.) Hamlin



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 uncifolia Cheeseman. var. libera Kük.


Endemic. South Island, North West Nelson.


A species found in open, damp sites such as along stream sides, in seepages and around small pools, ponds, and tarns. Known to range from lowland to subalpine habitats. Often found in montane forest and in tussock grassland.


Shortly rhizomatous; somewhat openly tufted, dingy reddish green, red to red-green sedge. Culms 10-80 x 1 mm, cylindrical, glabrous; shorter culms almost hidden by brownish leaf sheaths. Leaves > culms, up to 250 x 0.5-1 mm, rather spreading but not drooping, somewhat coriaceous, concavo-convex, paler on undersides, margins finely scabrid toward apex. Inflorescence of 3-5, close-packed, sessile spikes; terminal spike male, erect, usually reddish brown to brownish; subtending bracts numerous, leaf-like, glumes (excluding awns) usually slightly less than utricles, ovate, often emarginated and cuspidate. Reddish brown with a distinctly thicker green midrib, sometimes uniformly red-brown. Utricles 2-3 x 1-1.5 mm, plano-convex, ovoid-ellipsoid, light grey-green or yellow-brown toward base, spotted with red or dark red-purple in distinct patches toward apex, nerves distinct, whitish; beak rather short (up to 0.5 mm), slightly narrowed, usually spotted red-purple, margins glabrous, crura shortly bidentate to almost truncate, scabrid; stipe minute, scarcely narrower than utricle. Stigmas 3. Nut 1 x 1 mm. dark brown, obovoid, trigonous with rounded angles.

Similar Taxa

Carex libera is closely allied to the three other reddish coloured sedges C. edgarae Hamlin, C. filamentosa Petrie and C. uncifolia Cheeseman which posses small, congested and approximate spikes. From these C. libera is closest to C. edgarae with which it shares similar concavo-convex leaves which are wider than 0.5 mm, and utricles which are scarcely beaked. From C. edgarae, C. libera can be recognized by the red-tipped rather than black-tipped utricles, and by the female glumes which are almost the same or of equal length, rather than ½ the length of the utricles. In C. libera the male glumes are usually reddish-brown and awned while those of C. edgarae are creamy brown and usually entire.


October - January


October - May

Propagation Technique

Easily grown in pots and in an open, sunny but permanently damp situation. A very attractive small sedge well worth cultivating.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = c.60

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