Anemanthele lessoniana


lessoniana: Named after René Primevère Lesson who was a 19th century French botanist and surgeon

Common Name(s)

Gossamer grass

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable

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 - At Risk - Declining
2004 - Sparse


2012 - DP, Sp
2009 - DP


Anemanthele lessoniana (Steud.) Veldkamp



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



Agrostis lessoniana Steud., Oryzopsis lessoniana (Steud.) Veldkamp, Agrostis procera A.Rich., Dichelachne procera Steud., D. rigida Steud., Oryzopsis rigida (Steud.) Zotov, Agrostis rigida A.Rich., Apera arundinacea Hook.f., Stipa arundinacea (Hook.f.) Benth., Apera purpurascens Colenso


Endemic. North Island, North Auckland, Waikato and southern third of the island. South Island from Nelson and Marlborough south, mainly in the east. Also occurs as a cultivation escape in some places, e.g., Auckland City.


Sea level to montane forest, forest margins, scrub and on cliff faces and associated talus.


Erect, tufted, shortly rhizomatous perennial, bearing densely leafy culms surmounted by delicate, nodding panicles. Leaf-sheath to 150 mm, outer margin ciliate. Ligule 1.5 mm, asymmetrical, entire to fimbriate. Leaf-blade 450 x 6 mm, stiff, involute or flat, upper surface shining, apex acute,, undersides smooth, dull, margins scabrid. Culm to 750 mm, simple, erect to nodding, internodes smooth, occasionally scabrid below panicle. Panicle 600 mm; purplish-red or green, branches capillary, spreading, whorled; rachis slender, smooth to scaberulous, branches and pedicels scaberulous. Spikelets laterally subcompressed, pale green to purplish. Glumes subequal, 2.5-3.5 mm, hyaline, acute to acuminate, keel scabrid; lower linear-lanceolate, 1-nerved, upper elliptic-lanceolate, 1-3-nerved. Flowers perfect. Lemma 2 mm, 3-nerved, elliptic-oblong, awn to 8 mm, scabrid, curved, caducous. Callus minute, rounded, ringed by very minute hairs. Anther 1, 0.8-1.4 mm, apically thickened.

Similar Taxa

A most distinctive and singular species which could only be confused with the common introduced grass Piptatherum miliaceuum (L.) Coss. From that species Anemanthele is most readily distinguished by its spikelets with have laterally subcompressed rather than dorsally compressed florets bearing one rather than three stamens.


(October-) January (-March)


(November-) February (-May)

Propagation Technique

Easy from fresh seed, often naturalises in gardens and can become very invasive. Can be grown in a variety of situations but does best in dry soil in full sun or partial shade under trees. Does not like damp soils.

Chromosome No.

2n = 40-44

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

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

Where To Buy

Very common in cultivation and sold by most plant retail nurseries, though often under a variety of incorrect names.

References and further reading

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 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 10 May 2014