Ficinia: Named after Heinrich David Auguste Ficinus, 19th century German botanist
spiralis: From the Latin spira 'coil' or 'twist' and -alis 'resembling', resembling a twist or corkscrew, spiral-shaped
pingao, golden sand sedge, pikao
Ficinia spiralis (A.Rich.) Muasya et de Lange
CD, Inc, Sp
Vascular - Native
Isolepis spiralis A.Rich., Desmoschoenus spiralis (A.Rich.) Hook.f., Anthophyllum urvillei Steudel, Scirpus frondosus Boeck, Scirpus spiralis (A.Rich.) Druce
Endemic. New Zealand: North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands.
Coastal sand dune systems. It favours sloping and more or less unstable surfaces, growing mostly on the front face of active dunes but also on the rear face and rear dunes, provided that there is wind-blown sand. It can also grow on the top of sand hills. It is effective at trapping sand.
Stout, yellow-green when fresh, golden when dry, shortly creeping plants with stiff culms and very harsh leaves. Rhizome lignaceous, 10–15 mm diameter, shortly creeping, covered by red-brown to brown, fibrous strands left from decaying leaf-sheaths. Culms numerous, 0.3–1.2 m tall, 2–4 mm diameter, erect, obtusely trigonous, very leafy at the base. Leaves numerous, ± = culms, 2–5 mm. wide, stiffly erect or weakly curved, coriaceous, linear, concavo-convex or ± channelled, margins and keel sharply denticulate, narrowed to a long, trigonous tip; sheaths submembranous, much broader than leaves, with numerous, red-brown veins. Inflorescence, paniculate 70–300 mm long, each panicle composed of c.12 confluent clusters of sessile spikelets, each cluster subtended by a rigid leaf-like bract adnate to the axis and broadening at base to an open sheath, lower bracts much exceeding inflorescence. Spikelets 4–5 mm. long, dark red-brown. Glumes coriaceous, rigid, broadly ovate, obtuse, distinctly nerved, finely mucronulate, the lower ones ± keeled. Nut 2.5–4.0 x 2.0–2.5 mm, broadly obovoid, concavo-convex, compressed, obtuse, dark brown, smooth and shining.
None. Easily recognised by the widely spreading rhizomatous growth habit, distinctive overall orange colouring of the plant, paniculate spiral seed heads, and by the possession of a gynophore (see taxonomic notes).
Spring and early summer
Main Flower Colour
Can be grown from fresh seed and cuttings. Fresh seed germinates easily but plants resent root disturbance, and they should be grown in root trainers. Although it will tolerate most soils and moisture regimes, it obviously does best in coastal situations within active sand dunes.
Competition from marram grass (Ammophila arenaria), dune stabilisation and compaction, harvesting, trampling, vehicle traffic and browsing animals. Because this species is wind-pollinated, individuals of small, isolated populations may not receive pollen during flowering, and therefore there will be no seed production. Browsing and trampling by sheep and horses; browsing of seedlings by possums; seed destruction by rodents; fire and insensitive harvesting.
2n = 30
Desmoschoenus was recently ( Muasya & de Lange 2010) submerged into the mainly South African genus Ficinia on the basis of sound molecular and morphological reasons. Based on multiple DNA markers Desmoschoenus was found to be firmly embedded within Ficinia, that, along with its possession of a gynophore (a small cup like structure found at the base of ovary/nut otherwise known only from Ficinia) were considered firm reasons for its merger. Furthermore Desmoschoenus closely resembles those Ficinia which the molecular study placed it with. Read more about this research:
Pingao - Watch the TVNZ Meet the Locals video.
References and further reading
Muasya, A.M.; de Lange, P.J. 2010: Ficinia spiralis (Cyperaceae) a new genus and combination for Desmoschoenus spiralis. New Zealand Journal of Botany 48: 31-39.
This page last updated on 30 Mar 2013