Isolepis prolifera


Isolepis: From the Greek isos (equal) and lepis (scale)

Common Name(s)

none known

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


Isolepis prolifera (Rottb.) 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



Schoenoplectus prolifer (Rottb.) Palla; Scirpus prolifer Rottb.; Cyperus punctatus Lam., Isolepis erythronegma Steud.; Isolepis globosa Buchanan;


Indigenous. New Zealand: North, South and Chatham Islands. Also Australia, South Africa


Coastal to lower montane. Mostly in open, freshwater wetland systems - eutrophic or oligotrophic. Sometimes an aggressive weed in farm dams. Often invading poorly drained pasture and old cattle troughs. It is highly palatable to livestock which often wade out into wetlands seeking it.


Culms 60–900 mm × 0.7–4.0 mm, in tufts, ± compressed, lax and soft, or narrower, terete and erect, leafless, bearing a single reddish basal sheath with dilated oblique orifice. Inflorescence an apparently lateral cluster of numerous spikelets, often proliferous with 1–4(-10) branchlets, 20–70 mm long, each sheathed at the base and bearing a further small head of spikelets; bract subtending inflorescence obtuse, < spikelets. Spikelets 2–10 × 1–2 mm, narrow-linear, cylindrical, green to light red-brown. Glumes 2.0–2.5 × c.1.0 mm, ovate- to oblong-lanceolate, subacute to very shortly apiculate, membranous, flecked with small, light red-brown striae, margins entire and keel pale brown or green, lateral nerves conspicuous. Hypogynous bristles 0. Stamens 3. Style-branches 3. Nut c.1.0 × 0.5 mm, c.½ length of glume, trigonous, sides convex between the slightly thickened angles, minutely apiculate and stipitate, creamy yellow, surface minutely reticulate.

Similar Taxa

Similar to I. inundata R.Br. and I. distigmatosa (C.B.Clarke) Edgar. It is distinguished from these species by its usually hyaline yellow-green glumes flecked with minute red-brown stripes, and complete absence of leaves. From I. distigmatosa it also differs by the 3 rather than 2 style-branches, and trigonous nuts,and from I. inundatus differs by the shorter, broader spikelets and 1(-2) instead of 3 stamens. Most forms of I. inundatus have at least some true leaves, I. prolifer is always leafless.


October - January


December - April

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by division of whole plants. Once established rather tolerant of a range of conditions but flourishes best in full sun in a permanently damp soil. An attractive pot plant but can become invasive in some situations.


Not Threatened

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Nuts are dispersed by water and possibly granivory and attachment (Thorsen et al., 2009).


Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970).

References and further reading

Johnson, A. T. and Smith, H. A (1986). Plant Names Simplified: Their pronunciation, derivation and meaning. Landsman Bookshop Ltd: Buckenhill, UK.

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 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 30 Jan 2019