Chionochloa rubra subsp. rubra var. rubra


Chionochloa: snow grass
rubra: red

Common Name(s)

red tussock

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


Chionochloa rubra Zotov subsp. rubra var. rubra



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class



Danthonia antarctica var. delta minor Hook.f.


Endemic. New Zealand: North Island (Volcanic Plateau southwards), South Island (Marlborough and North Canterbury (scarce)).


Subalpine to alpine (rarely upper montane). Often the dominant of tussock grassland, also found within shallow bogs or fringing the margins of deeper bogs and small ponds, tarns and slow flowing streams. Occasionally in canopy gaps in upper montane forest or within subalpine scrub.


Tall, slender, red tussock with crowded, erect, stiff, rush-like leaves. Leaf-sheath to 300 mm, dark brown, keeled, incurving, fracturing into short segments, internerves glabrous or long hairy, margin scabrid, separating and coiling, apical tuft of hairs to 3 mm. Ligule to 1 mm. Leaf-blade to 1 m long and 1.2 mm diameter, falling with part of sheath, red to red-brown, acicular rush-like, splitting longitudinally, keel hollow, undersides glabrous but infrequently with long hairs near base, prickle-teeth towards apex, upper surface with rows of short hairs at base, and prickle-teeth; margin scabrid, with long hairs below, and prickle-teeth above. Culm to 1.5 m, internodes glabrous, sheath glabrous. Inflorescence to 45 cm, open on pulvinate branches, glabrous except for long hairs at branch axils and short stiff hairs below spikelets, rarely becoming scabrid above. Spikelets of up to 9 florets. Glumes glabrous, acute, infrequently awned, less than or equal to adjacent lemma lobes, lower to 12 mm, 1-3-5-nerved, upper to 14 mm, 3-5-7-nerved. Lemma to 5 mm; hairs dense on margin, usually absent or sparse elsewhere, < sinus; lateral lobes to 6 mm including awn to 3 mm, rarely unawned; central awn to 13 mm from twisting column to 3 mm. Palea to 8 mm. Callus to 1.5 mm, hairs to 4 mm. Rachilla to 0.75 mm. Lodicules to 1 mm. Anthers to 3.5 mm. Ovary to 1 mm; stigma-styles to 4 mm. Seeds to 3.5 mm

Similar Taxa

Chionochloa rubra subsp. rubra var. inermis Connor has greenish leaves with papillate upper surfaces and smooth margins and is an allopatric variant endemic to Mt Egmont. Distinguished from the other subspecies of C. rubra by the upper leaf surface, which just above the ligule bears short hairs or is completely glabrous and by the abundant prickle-teeth along the leaf margin


October - December


November - May

Propagation Technique

Easy from fresh seed and the division of whole plants. However, can be slow growing and dislikes warm, humid climates and drought. Though once established it can take plenty of abuse. The reddish leaves are especially attractive.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 42

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Florets are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).


Description modified from Edgar and Connor (2000)

References and further reading

Edgar, E.; Connor, H.E. 2000: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. V. Grasses. Christchurch, Manaaki Whenua Press. 650 pp.

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 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 15 Aug 2014