Carex testacea


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.
testacea: brownish yellow
testacea: with a hard bony surface (the utricle)

Common Name(s)

Speckled Sedge, Trip Me Up

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 testacea Sol. ex Boott



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





Endemic. New Zealand: North and South Islands. Uncommon in the South Island.


Coastal to montane. In sand dunes, coastal forest and scrub, dense forest or short tussock (Festuca novae-zelandiae (Hack.) Cockayne) grassland.


Densely tufted, 0.3-0.6(-0.8) m high, usually dark red to orange-red sedge. Culms < or > leaves, often exceedingly elongated at maturity, up to 2 m long, trailing, prostrate, < 1 mm diameter, often almost filiform, trigonous or subtrigonous, glabrous or slightly scabrid below the inflorescence; basal sheaths dark brown or red-brown, nerves distinct. Leaves 1.0-2.5(-3.0) mm wide, channelled, usually reddish or orange-green, sometime slight green, harshly scabrid. Spikes 3–5, ± approximate; terminal spike male, c. 1 mm diameter, ± = female spikes in length, on a filiform peduncle; remaining spikes female, 5-25(-30) × c. 5 mm, often with a few male flowers at the base, sessile, or the lowest more distant and shortly pedunculate. Glumes (excluding awn) ± = utricle, broadly ovate, thin and membranous, often deeply emarginate, occasionally entire, very light brown with darker flecks, midrib usually brown-spotted, produced to a scabrid awn of variable length. Utricles c. 2.5 × 1.5 mm, ± plano-convex, broadly ovoid, pale yellow-brown below, purple-brown above, nerved, more strongly so on the more convex face, shining, narrowed abruptly to the deeply bifid beak c. 0.5 mm long, margins and orifice usually finely scabrid, occasionally ± contracted below to a stipe c. 0.5 mm long. Stigmas 2. Nut c. 1.5 mm long, biconvex, dark brown, almost black.

Similar Taxa

Carex testacea belongs to a complex of allied species which include the South Island, ultramafic endemic C. devia Cheesemanii, C. raoulii Boott, and C. flagellifera Colenso. From C. devia and C. raoulii it is best distinguished by its usually long trailing fruiting culms, narrow, mostly orange-red, or reddish-green, channelled leaves, and usually distant, pendent female spikes. It is morphologically closest to C. flagellifera (itself a species complex). From that species, at least in its typical form is differs by the usually orange-red to red-green, rather than yellow-green to dark green culms, and membranous, mostly light brown glumes bearing numerous fine, red-brown striae, rather than uniformly red brown to dark red-brown, subcoriaceous glumes.


September - December


November - May (but may be present throughout the year)

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by division of established plants. Can be grown in full sun and deep shade but prefers a free draining soil. Forms with dark orange-red leaves and culms are very popular in cultivation.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = c.52

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).

Notes on taxonomy

Carex testacea is extremely variable and is probably better regarded as a species complex. Plants of inland forests are usually much stouter, and have longer, darker brown spikes than those collected from coastal areas. Forms from upland short-tussock grassland typically have wider leaves, and shorter culms, and in some sites are difficult to distinguish from C. wakatipu Petrie.


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