Carex subtilis


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

Common Name(s)

Handsome Bastard Grass, Handsome Hook Sedge

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 - Data Deficient
2004 - Sparse


2012 - DP, SO
2009 - SO


Carex subtilis K.A.Ford



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



Uncinia elegans (Kük.) Hamlin; Uncinia sinclairii Boott var. elegans Kük.; Uncinia macrolepis Decne var. elegans (Kük.) Kük.


Indigenous. South Island, from Canterbury south through Otago to Fiordland. Also recorded from Tasmania.


A very uncommon upper montane to subalpine species of short tussock grassland, or shady locations under scrub and under low rock overhangs. Sometimes in open dry rocky ground.


Shortly rhizomatous, spreading sedge form loose turfs. Rhizome 1-1.5 mm diameter. Culms 40-300 x 0.5-1 mm, erect, usually glabrous, occasionally weakly scabrid just below inflorescence; basal bracts dull grey-brown. Leaves 4-10 per culm, < or more or less to culms in length, 1-2 mm wide, soft, somewhat flaccid. Spikes 15-30 x 2-4 mm, cylindrical, ebracteate, female flowers about 10, close-set with lower ones usually lax. Glumes slightly < utricles, persistent, obtuse, coriaceous, straw-yellow with brown flecks and/or markings, or dark brown or brown tinged, midrib green. Utricles 4-5 x 1-1.5 mm, plano-convex, obovate-oblong, grey-brown with dark brown nerves, finely hispid on margins and both surfaces of upper half, beak tapering c. 1mm long, stipe scarcely narrowed, 0.4-0.5 mm long.

Similar Taxa

Closest to Carex parvispica K.A.Ford from which it mainly differs by the narrower leaves, spikes and more distinctly nerved utricles. In Carex subtilis the glumes are often dark brown or brown tinged, those of C, parvispica are uniformly straw-coloured. Carex subtilis is smaller with narrower leaves, the spike is narrow, utricles not or little divergent and with truly scabrid (sometimes sparsely so) margin, glume usually a bit less than utricle. Carex subtilis prefers to grow in drier shady sites than C. parvispica. Carex parvispica is larger with wider leaves, spike wider, and the utricles divergent when mature with an almost ciliate margin, glume = utricle, and prefers damp situations.


November - December


November to June

Propagation Technique



Believed to be a naturally uncommon, ecologically sparse species. However it is poorly known from large parts of its reported range. Further survey to ascertain its exact status is much desired.

Chromosome No.

2n = 94

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available



Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1979). Fact sheet prepared by Peter J. de Lange 17 August 2006.

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. II. Government Printer, Wellington.

This page last updated on 26 Aug 2015