Lepidosperma laterale


Lepidosperma: scale seed

Common Name(s)

sword 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


Lepidosperma laterale 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. Australian and New Zealand. In New Zealand confined to the North Island where it common from Te Paki south to about the King Country and the Bay of Plenty.


Coastal to lowland, where it usually grows on poorly drained clay soils in gumland scrub, in regenerating forest on steep hill slopes. Sometimes in damp sand such in dune swales and slacks or on sand podzols. Often grows in shrublands dominated by Kunzea Rchb. and Leptospermum J.R.Forst. et G.Forst..


Coarsely tufted perennial sedge arising from a stout woody rootstock. Culms 0.5-2.0 m tall, 4-7 mm wide, rigidly coriaceous, laterally flattened with sharp, minutely scabrid margins to more or less convex above. Leaves 3-5 mm wide, similar to culms but usually much shorter, equitant at the base, margins extremely minutely scabrid, apices acuminate. Panicle 100-400 mm long, greyish brown when mature, rather narrow, rigidly erect; branches mostly distant, usually simple, erect; lowest bract with a stiff lamina 20-60 mm long, upper bracts shorter, distinctly mucronate, brown to grey-brown. Spikelets 6 mm long, distant on the lower branches, fascicled above, 1-4-flowered, only the uppermost flower fertile. Glumes 5-7, ovate, acuminate. pubescent towards the apex,the lowest 2-3 empty. Hypogynous scales 6, fused at base, each terminated by a fine ciliate seta, this up to 1/2 length of nut. Nut 2.5-3.5 x 1.5-2.0 mm, ovoid, more or less trigonous, the angles thickened, surface at first wrinkled, becoming smooth at maturity, brown; persistent style-base hardly distinguishable from nut, glabrous, brown, with a small black mucro.

Similar Taxa

Could be confused with Baumea complanata (Bergg.) Blake and Machaerina sinclairii (Hook.f.) Koyama, other sedges which have large, flat culms and leaves. However both these species have much wider culms or leaves (up to 30 mm in Machaerina) and denser flowered, usually pendulous, often distinctly fluffy inflorescences, and mostly grow in permanently damp situations (such as seepages) or in peat bogs.


September - December


October - March (long persistent, usually present all year round)

Propagation Technique

Difficult to cultivate. Seed difficult to germinate. Plants resent root disturbance and usually die if transplanted. However, considerable success has been achieved growing plants and germinating seed in untreated saw dust. Nevertheless this is an attractive species to grown in a sunny situation, preferring poorly drained clay soils.


Not Threatened

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

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

Where To Buy

Plants are occasionally available from specialist nurseries.


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 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 3 Jun 2015