Carex trifida


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

Common Name(s)

Mutton-bird Sedge, Tataki

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 trifida Cav.



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 rekohu Petrie


Indigenous. New Zealand, southern South Island, Stephens, Stewart, Chatham, Snares, Antipodes, Auckland, Campbell Islands. Also present on Macquarie Island, in southern South America and the Falkland Islands.


Strictly coastal where it often associated with seal haul outs and sea bird nesting grounds, especially - as the common name suggests - muttonbirds (Puffinus spp.). Usually in open sites, very rarely found in canopy gaps within coastal forest.


Extremely robust, compact, light green to glaucous sedge, producing tussocks up to 1 m diameter. Culms 0.15–1.00 m tall, 2–4 mm diameter, trigonous with angles rounded, glabrous; basal sheaths cream, grey, or yellow-brown. Leaves often overtopping the inflorescence, 6–15 mm wide, light green to dark glaucous green, double-folded, with keel not very much thickened, rather soft and spreading, margins slightly scabrid with rather distant teeth; sheath only slightly broader than lamina, paler green. Spikes 6–15, brown, very sturdy, 35–11 x 5–15 mm; upper 2–4 spikes male, occasionally with a few female flowers intermingled, ± approximate, ± sessile; lower spikes female, the lowest often compound, on stout erect peduncles; bracts leaf-like, > inflorescence. Glumes > utricles, linear-oblong, or lanceolate, noticeably emarginate, membranous, chestnut-brown, the pale greenish brown midrib produced to a very long hispid awn. Utricles 4.5–6.0 x c.2.0 mm., subtrigonous, oblong-obovoid, turgid, distinctly nerved, straw-coloured to light brown tinged; abruptly narrowed to a rather shallowly bifid beak c.1 mm long, margins and orifice occasionally slightly scabrid; much contracted to a very pale brown stipe c.1 mm long. Stigmas 3. Nut c. 2 mm. long, trigonous, oblong-obovoid, dark brown.

Similar Taxa

Carex trifida has no obvious close relatives in New Zealand, and of the few it frequently associates with, none, except the Chatham Island endemic C. ventosa Petrie, have any gross morphological similarity. From C. ventosa, C. trifida differs by its distinctly emarginate rather than acute or truncate, chestnut brown rather than mostly colourless, with red-brown striae glumes. Although C. ventosa is often weakly glaucous it rarely is the dark blue-green colour usually seen in C. trifida. Carex ventosa is normally a forest plant and C. trifida prefers open coastal sites, rarely however, do their distributions overlap, and there is some evidence they form hybrids.


August - December


November - June

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by the division of established plants. Often naturalises in gardens. Prefers full sun and a damp, well manured, slightly acidic soil but will grow in almost any conditions except deep shade. A beautiful and popular sedge, widely grown in New Zealand.


Not Threatened - but very uncommon in the northern part of its range

Chromosome No.

2n = 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).

Taxonomic notes

Based on nrDNA ITS sequences New Zealand plants are sister to the Chatham Island endemics C. ventosa Petrie and C. chathamica Petrie. No sequences of C. trifida seem to be available from its type locality, the Falkland Islands.


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