Carex purpurata


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

Common Name(s)

Purple Bastard Grass, Tussock Hook Grass

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 - Sp


Carex purpurata (Petrie) 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 purpurata Petrie


Endemic. South Island, Canterbury (Fox Hill), Otago (hills near Dunedin, Ben Lomond, Mt Benger and other peaks and ranges of Central Otago) and Southlabnd


A species of damp, open ground under montane forest and subalpine scrub, in tall tussock grassland, in grey scrub and in or near cliff faces. It prefers damp sites in seepages, near small springs or under rock overhangs.


Tufted, caespitose, gracile sedge. Culms 40-400 x 0.5 mm, finely scabrid below inflorescence; basal bracts dull brown to yellow brown. Leaves 3-5 per culm, much < than mature culms in length, 1-2 mm wide, erect or slightly curved, faintly scabrid on the margins and undersides, especially towards the leaf apex. Spikes 25-40 x 3-4 mm, ebracteate, female flowers 10-20, close set, becoming rather lax at maturity with internodes up to 5 mm apart near base of spike, 1.5 mm above. Glumes mostly 1/2 to 3/4 glume length, persistent, broadly ovate, obtuse or lowermost subacute, coriaceous, bright chesnut-brown with a green or light brown midrib and broad, whitish to white-grey hyaline margins. Utricle 4.5-5.5. x 1-2 mm, plano-convex, oblong or obovate, dark brown with numerous faint veins, beak 1-1.5 mm long, stipe c. 1 mm long.

Similar Taxa

Perhaps closest to Carex penalpina K.A.Ford from which it differs by its much more gracile/slender habit, faintly scabrid leaves and especially by the bright chesnut-brown colour of the glumes. Unlike Carex penalpina, the glumes of C. purpurata are markedly shorter than the utricles. Despite the specific epithet, C. purpurata often has a washed out, whitish green colouration, only the occasional plant is wine-red or purple-tinged. In the field C. purpurata can be recognised by the dark spikes, narrowly hyaline glume margin and dark brown almost black immature utricles which fade to chestnut as the utricle matures and spreads. In some examples the glume may be dark chestnut. The Leaves of C. purpurata are usually much narrower than C. penalpina which has more obviously coriaceous and curved leaves that those of C. purpurata which are staight to curved and very pliant.


October - November


October - April

Propagation Technique

Probably easily grown in a suitably moist, peaty soil.


This species is never abundant at any particular location and is quite widespread, though rather localised, being a truly biologically sparse, naturally uncommon sedge. It does not appear to have suffered any decline, indeed as a result of field surveys over the last 20 years it is now known to be quite secure and widespread over much of its range.

Chromosome No.

2n = 88

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available



Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970). 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 18 Jun 2016