Carex virgata


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

Common Name(s)

swamp sedge, pukio, toitoi, toetoe

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 virgata 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



Carex paniculata var. virgata (Boott) Cheeseman; Carex appressa var. virgata (Boott) Kük.


Indigenous. New Zealand: North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands.


Widespread from sea level to about 1000 m a.s.l. in open, swampy conditions and also in damp sites within lowland forest. In parts of the country this sedge is often the dominant carice of lowland alluvial forest.


Rhizomatous, densely clumped to tussock-forming sedge. Rhizome 5 mm. diameter. Culms 150–900 mm. x c.1.5 mm, trigonous, grooved, harshly scabrid; basal sheaths shining, grey-brown to dark brown, sometimes black. Lvs much > culms, 0.5–1.2 m tall, 1.5–4.5 mm wide, channelled, light green, harsh and rigid, keel and margins strongly scabrid. Inflorescence a narrow 100–260 mm long panicle with stiff erect branchlets, the lower-most quite distant. Spikes, androgynous, 4–6 mm. long, sessile, grey- or yellow-brown, male flowers terminal, lower spikes on each branchlet subtended by a pale membranous bract with a long scabrid awn often > spike. Glume ± = or slightly < utricles, membranous, ovate, acute, dull brown, with a prominent pale midrib, this often scabrid in lowermost glumes. Utricles 2.0–2.5 x c.1.0 mm, plano-convex, ovoid, light grey with distinct brown nerves; tapering to a brown beak c.0.5 mm long with a bifid orifice and conspicuously denticulate margins; abruptly contracted to a narrow stipe c.0.2 mm. long. Stigmas 2. Nut slightly > 1 mm. long, biconvex, ovoid, dark brown.

Similar Taxa

Carex virgata most closely resembles C. appressa R.Br., especially as the inflorescence of both species is a stiff contracted panicle, further, both species have similar distinctly nerved utricles. However, C. virgata has more slender culms, narrower leaves and paler brown, less dense-flowered panicles. Plants of C. virgata could also be confused with C. secta Boott as they can occasionally become elevated on trunks formed by matted rhizomes and semi-decayed culms. However, in such rare examples of C. virgata, plants never attain the height reached by C. secta. Further, the inflorescences of C. virgata are never drooping, and obviously branched, with the basal branchlets often distant.


October - December


December - May

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by the division of established plants. A fast growing sedge often popular in wetland restoration and riparian plantings.


Not Threatened

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

On the Chatham Islands C. virgata either hybridises with or appears to intergrade with C. appressa.


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