Carex tenuiculmis


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.

Common Name(s)

slender wine sedge

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Declining

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


Carex tenuiculmis (Petrie) Heenan et de Lange



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 secta var. tenuiculmis Petrie


Endemic. South, Stewart and Chatham Islands (both Chatham (Rekohu) and Pitt Islands)


A sedge of lowland to montane slow flowing stream sides, lake margins, tarns, ponds and associated wetland vegetation. This species usually grows in association with other carices including Carex coriacea Hamlin, C. diandra Schrank, C. gaudichaudiana Kunth, C. secta Boott and C. virgata Sol. ex Boott. It does not like tall vegetation.


Tussock forming sedge of wetland margins. Rhizomes short and spreading, not forming a trunck. Leaves 250-800 x 2.4-3.2 mm, ascending and spreading, channelled, soft, red, wine-red, or red-green, keel and margins scabrid. Culms 200-500 x 1.8-2.1 mm, glabrous to near triquetrous in lower part, scabrid and trigonous in upper part; similar in length to, or shorter than, the leaves; basal sheath up to 90 mm long, red or red-green, becoming straw-coloured when dry. Inflorescence 80-140 mm long, usually with a single proximal branch, without subtending bract; spikes 1.5-15 mm long; upper spikes crowded and more or less sessile. male florets distal. Glumes 2.1-3 x 1.9-2.2 mm, shorter than utricles, ovate, membranous, persistent, acuminate, light-brown, with a straw-coloured midrib, margins hyaline. utricles 2.3-3.5 x 1.6-2.3 mm, broad or narrow, plano-convex, ovoid, turgid, light brown to brown, smooth, shining, nerves distinct at base; beak 0.5-0.8 mm long, entire or with minute crura; stipe 0.2-0.4 mm long, beak and upper part of utricle winged, with scabrid margins, cream to light brown. Stigmas 2. Nut 1.7-2 mm long, biconvex, ovoid to obovoid, light-brown.

Similar Taxa

Closest to C. secta from which it differs by its non-trunked rather than trunked tussock forming habit, wine-red to red-green rather than green leaves which are 2.4-3.2 mm rather than 1.5-7 mm wide. In C. tenuiculmis the culms are 200-500 mm long, and in C. secta 0.25-1 m long. The inflorescence of C. tenuiculmis is spiciform, usually unbranched or with 1-2 short branches near the base, and 80-140 mm long, while that of C. secta is paniculiform with numerous long branches 200-600 mm long. The utricles of C. tenuiculmis are light brown to brown, with the margins strongly winged, scabrid and cream-coloured, and the apex either entire or with a minute crura. In C. secta the utricles are chesnut brown to dark brown with the margins weakly winged, scabrid and light brown to brown, and the apex with distinct or minute crura. Carex tenuiculmis has 2n = c. 66 chromosomes and C. secta 2n = c. 70.


November - December


January - May

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by the division of established plants. A very attractive species now commonly seen in cultivation, though it is often sold incorrectly by commericial garden centres as Carex ternaria Boott which it doesn't evenly remotely resemble! The medium-sized tussock forming habit, dark wine-red foliage and narrowly pendent spike-like inflorescences are particularly attractive. Though it does best in a sunny, permanently damp situation it can tolerant extremely dry conditions, although, ultimately in these locations it will not flourish.


Once regarded to be seriously threatened, critical survey throughout its range has located many more populations, the majority of which occur in secure habitats and locations. The biological pattern of distribution now suggests that this species is normally uncommon, and while it can at times be locally common, it is more usually a minor (sparse) component of wetland systems. That said, it is evident that some populations, especially those in northern Canterbury are more at risk from development than others.

Chromosome No.

2n = c.66

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).




Fact sheet by P.J. de Lange (30 August 2005). Description based on Heenan & de Lange (1997).

References and further reading

Heenan, P.B.; de Lange, P. J.; Murray, B. G. 1997: Carex tenuiculmis comb. et stat. nov. (Cyperaceae), a threatened red-leaved sedge from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 35: 159-165.

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 16 May 2016