Carpha alpina


Carpha: straw
alpina: alpine

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


Carpha alpina R.Br.



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





Indigenous. Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand known from the North, South, Stewart and Auckland Islands. In the North Island it is known locally from te Moehau south becoming more common along the main axial ranges and on the volcanic plateau.


Coastal to alpine in bogs, mires and other moderately open shrublands overlying poorly drained soils and peat. in the northern part of its range strictly montane to alpine, descending to the coast on the west coast and southern portion of the South Island, Stewart and Auckland Islands.


Tufted perennial sedge. Culms 30-750 x 0.5-1.5 mm, grooved , flaccid or rigid (often with curled or curved apices). Leaves numerous, grey-green or red-green, 50-300 x 0.5-2.0 mm, usually <, though occasionally > culms, rigid, lamina narrow-linear, flat or concavo-convex, apex obtuse; sheath broad, brown, shining; lower portion of lamina and mouth of sheath minutely serrulate. Inflorescence a terminal corymb, occasionally condensed to form a compact head, or comprising discrete spikelets in 4-6 loose stalked clusters; bracts subtending inflorescence 1-2, foliaceous; bracts subtending spikelets plumose. Spikelets 8-12 mm long, pale and lustrous, 1-flowered. Glumes usually 5, lanceolate, more or less obtuse, stiffly membranous, keeled the 2 lower shorter, the next larger pair subtending the flower, the fifth glume setaceous. Hypogynous bristles 6, plumose with silky hairs almost to the apex, then scabrid, > glumes when mature. Nut 2.5-3.0 mm long, stipitate, pale to dark brown, surmounted by the dried and rigid, long, narrow, smooth or minutely hairy style-base.

Similar Taxa

Carpha has a superficial resemblance to grasses of the genus Rytidosperma Steud on account of the plumose bracts subtending the spikelets and also the plumose seta that form a perianth around the flower and later the nut. From Rytidosperma it is easily distinguished by the rigidly flat, narrow-linear grey-green or red-green leaves, usually corymbose inflorescence, flowers which lack lemma, palea, and by the distinctive, stipitate nut. Carpha cannot be confused however with any other indigenous or naturalised cyperaceous genus.


November - January


February - May

Propagation Technique

Although rather slow growing this species is easily cultivated in a pot partially submerged in water. In the wild it is variable with tall and short forms which seem to retain these stature differences in cultivation. From a horticultural perspective some selection from these may be useful. Like many cyperaceous species, Carpha alpina resents root disturbance and can be fickle from seed.


Not Threatened

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Pappate nuts are dispersed by wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).


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 31 May 2014