Carex capillacea


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.
capillacea: From the Latin capillus 'hair' or 'thread', meaning hair-like or thread-like

Common Name(s)


Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

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 - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


2012 - SO, Sp


Carex capillacea Boott



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



Carex rara subsp. capillacea (Boott) Kük., C. wallii Petrie


Indigenous. North and South Islands. In the North confined to the Volcanic Plateau (the Waimarino Plain), and the Moawhango. In the South Island more widespread from Nelson and western Marlborough south to Lakes Te Anau, Manapouri, Hauroko and east to Lumsden. Probably more widespread as it is easily overlooked. Also known from Australia, New Guinea, Malesia, China, Japan and India.


Favouring cushion bog, sphagnum bog, seepages, flushes and the margins of ponds, pools, tarns and on seasonally flooded river terraces within montane forest, scrub, and tussock grassland.


Diminutive, shortly rhizomatous, somewhat flaccid, tufted, matted bright green to yellow-green sedge of damp forest hollows, river terrace wetlands and cushion bogs. Culms 4-10-30 x 0.5-0.7 mm, usually curved (sickle-shaped), plano-convex to terete, smooth; basal sheaths light brown or grey-brown. Leaves < culms, up to 0.5 mm wide, plano-convex to involute, yellow-green, glossy, margins finely scabrid near the acute apex. Inflorescence solitary, terminal spike 5-8 x 3-4 mm, ovate, usually ebracteate, sometimes with the lowermost glume bractiform; female flowers 6-10(-12), male flowers in a terminal spikelet 3 mm long. Glumes < utricles, ovate, obtuse, pale brown, midrib green. Utricles 2 x 1 mm, plano-convex or biconvex, ovoid, green, membranous, nerved, margins glabrous, beak c.0.5 mm long, crura truncate or notched, glabrous, stipe absent or wanting. Stigmas 3. Nut 1.5 mm long, pale cream, bluntly trigonous, ovoid, surface distinctly reticulate pitted; style-base persistent.

Similar Taxa

Within the New Zealand species C. capillacea is the only species placed within Section Capitellatae of Subgenus Carex and of all the New Zealand carices it is most likely to be confused with the four species of Subgenus Primocarex (C. acicularis Boott in Hook.f., C. enysii Petrie, C. allanii Hamlin and C. pyrenaica var. cephalotes (F.Muell.) Kük.) all of which possess a unispicate inflorescence. From these carices C. capillacea is readily distinguished by its bright-green to yellow-green, somewhat flaccid, matted habit, and by the sessile, membranous utricles which are rarely longer than 2 mm. As the spikelet is usually ebracteate it could be confused with C. pyrenaica var. cephalotes but that species has distinctly coriaceous, stipitate utricles 2.5-5 mm long.


October - December


October - July

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from rooted pieces, divisions of whole plants, and fresh seed. An attractive small sedge with rather unusual solitary spikes. Doe sbest in a small pot kept permanently moist. Dislikes prolonged dry conditions and humidity.


Biologically sparse and naturally uncommon. This species has a somewhat disjunct distribution. It does not appear to be threatened at the majority of the known sites but it is vulnerable to competiion from weeds.

Chromosome No.

2n = c.60

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Nuts surrounded by inflated utricles are dispersed by granivory and wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).




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

This page last updated on 29 May 2014