Carex kirkii var. kirkii


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.
kirkii: after Thomas Kirk (18 January 1828 - 8 March 1898), a NZ botanist and lecturer in natural sciences and regarded as a leader of botanical enquiry in NZ for over three decades. One of his most significant publications was Forest flora of NZ (1889) but he also contributed over 130 papers to the Transactions and Proceedings of the NZ Institute and other journals.

Common Name(s)

Kirks sedge

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 kirkii Petrie var. kirkii



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: South Island North-West Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago.


Alpine (900-1900 m a.s.l.). Usually in snow-tussock (Chionochloa) grassland, associated herbfield and on semi-consolidated talus.


Shortly rhizomatous, bright to dark green densely tufted sedge. Culms much << leaves, 10-40 × c.0.5 mm diameter, triquetrous, smooth, mostly hidden by leaf-sheaths; basal sheaths chestnut. Leaves 3-5 per culm, 30-200 × c.0.5 mm, involute, wiry, striated, scabrid towards the acute tip. Inflorescence a compound spike 10-15 × c.5 mm, pale green or pale brown; subtended by a conspicuous leaf-like bract. Spikes crowded, androgynous, male flowers terminal, occasionally absent in the lower spike. Glumes = or slightly >, rarely < utricles, ovate-lanceolate, acuminate or acute, membranous, light brown or almost colourless, midrib light green, prominent in the lowermost glumes and often scabrid towards the tip. Utricles 4.0-4.5 × c.1 mm, plano-convex, elliptic-obovoid, ± papillose, strongly nerved slightly winged; beak 1.5-2.0 mm long, scabrid on the margins, orifice oblique, bifid; stipe minute or absent. Stigmas 2. Nut c.2 mm long, plano-convex, oblong, shortly stipitate.

Similar Taxa

Carex kirkii var. elatior Kük. differs by the longer culms (up to 210 mm cf. 40 mm in var. elatior) which elongate well above the leaves and surrounding leaf-sheaths at maturity rather than remain hidden amongst the leaf-sheaths; longer (up to 350 x 1.5 mm cf. 200 x 0.5 mm) involute or flattened rather than involute leaves; and longer (10-40 x c.5 mm cf. 10-15 x c.5 mm) distinct rather than crowded spikes. Only occasionally are the lower-most spikes of var. elatior specimens subtended by a leaf-like bract, while in var. kirkii the whole inflorescence is almost always subtended by such a bract.


November - December


December - February

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by division of established plants. Best planted in full sun in a free-draining, permanently damp soil within a rock garden, or grown in a pot. Dislikes humidity and will not flower in warmer, northern lowland situations.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = c.68-70

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Winged utricles are dispersed by water, granivory and wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Not Commercially Available


Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (110 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