Spinifex sericeus

Common Name(s)

Spinifex, kowhangatara

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


Spinifex sericeus 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



New Zealand plants have long been referred to Spinifex hirstutus Labill. a species that is now considered quite unrelated and confined to Western Australia


Indigenous. Common throughout New Zealand. Also present in Australia


Strictly coastal where it is confined to sandy beaches. This is the main dune forming indigenous plant in New Zealand. It is usually found at the front of actively accumulating foredunes. Its does not tolerate stable dune systems and does not compete well with other introduced dune plants.


Stoloniferous, often forming colonies stretching to 80-(160) m along sand dunes, with much-branched, knotted, rope-like, hard, creeping culms. Leaf-sheath leathery, strongly-nerved, silky-hairy. Ligule minute, ciliate, hairs very dense to 6 mm. Leaf-blade c.300 mm, inrolled and c.1.5 mm diameter, leathery, strongly nerved, silky-villous. Culm 2.5-6.0 mm diameter, internodes glabrous, silky-villous below inflorescence. Dioecious*: male inflorescence with numerous pedunculate racemes, 0-120 mm, bearing up to 15 silky-villous spikelets, each terminated by a short bristle c.10 mm; raceme clusters subtended by spathaceous bracts ¡Ü raceme. Male spikelets 100 mm; glumes ¡Ü spikelet, 7-9-nerved; lemmas similar to glumes but less villous, 5-nerved; each floret with 2 emarginate lodicules 0.6 x 0.3 mm, and 3 pollen-filled anthers to 6 mm. Female inflorescence very conspicuous, globular, appearing spiny with strict bracts to 150 mm, disarticulating from culm at maturity and wheeling along sand; spikelets solitary, hidden at base of bract, 15-18 mm; glumes equal to spikelet, 5-7-nerved, silky-villous; lemmas shorter, less villous, rather chartaceous, 3-5-nerved; lower floret sterile; upper floret female, larger, with 2 lodicules c.1 x 1 mm, and 3 stamens with stout filaments bearing white, pollen less anthers up to 1.5 mm; ovary 1.5-2.0 mm, stigma-styles 17-20 mm; seed free, c. 4.5-5.0 x 2.5 mm. * but stems with both male and female flowers are known

Similar Taxa

None - the distinctive softly spiny female seed heads, which disarticulate and are usually seen rolling down the beach readily identify this species.


September - December

Flower Colours



November - May

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed (which is best). Can be grown from layered pieces but often slow to start and fickle. Does best when planted directly into sand dunes - not a good plant for the average garden.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 18

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Sold by a number of specialist native plant nurseries. Popular plant for dune restoration.


Description adapted from Edgar and Connor (2000).

References and further reading

 Edgar, E.; Connor H.E. 2000: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. 5. Landcare Research, Christchurch.

Gardner, R. 1999. Spinifex sericeus in Auckland. Auckland Botanical Society Journal, 54: 36

This page last updated on 30 Dec 2018