Eleocharis sphacelata


Eleocharis: charm of the swamp
sphacelata: diseased (appearance of the spike)

Common Name(s)

kutakuta, spikes of doom, bamboo spike sedge, tall spike 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


Eleocharis sphacelata 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







Coastal to lower montane (but mainly in lowland areas). Preferring sunny situations where it usually grows in still deep water such as along lake and pond margins often amongst Raupo (Typha orientalis C.B.Presl), Baumea articulata (R.Br.) Blake. Rarely bordering slowly flowing streams and rivers, or in burn pools and damp depressions within peat bogs.


Rhizome 10-15 mm diameter, stout and lignaceous, creeping. Culms 0.3-1.2 m long, 4-12 mm diameter, usually close-packed, linear with obvious internal transverse septa set at regular intervals of 10-100 mm, apices blunted-ended unless fertile. Basal sheaths grey. chartaceous with an oblique orifice; roots 2 mm diameter, red-brown, in a group of up to 5 from the base of each culm. Spikelet 20-70 x 5-10 mm, cylindrical with an acute apex. Lowest glume sterile, almost completely surrounding base of spikelet, very short; upper glumes numerous, imbricate, 6-8 mm long, obovate-oblong, obtuse, not keeled but with a strong median nerve and numerous fine lateral nerves. Hypogynous bristles 6-10, usually greater than nut, with rather large, sparse, retrorse teeth. Stamens 3, Style 3-fid, occasionally stigmas 2, or all connate to the apex. Nut 2.0-2.5 mm long (excluding persistent style-base), orbicular, biconvex, the surface covered with hexagonal reticulations, pale brown, surmounted by the persistent, dark brown, conic, swollen base of the style.

Similar Taxa

None. Easily distinguished from other species of Eleocharis by the much large soft, hollow, transversely septate culms. Could be confused with sterile species of Baumea articulata but that species has much longer (up to 2 m), dark green to almost brown green, rigidly firm culms with acute rather than blunt-ended apices


August - December


November - May

Propagation Technique

Can be tricky. Fresh seed germinates best if allowed to float on water overlying potting mix, gradually reduce the water level so that the germinating plants can naturally "float" on to the underlying soil. Plants do best if their rootstock is submerged.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 100

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Bristly nuts are dispersed by water and possibly wind and attachment (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Cultural use

The long culms, when dried, were sometimes used by Maori for their tukutuku panels.


Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970)

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I. 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 12 Sep 2014