Carex albula


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

Common Name(s)

White Sedge

Current Conservation Status

2018 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable

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

2012 - At Risk - Declining
2009 - Data Deficient
2004 - Range Restricted


2012 - DP, Sp


Carex albula Allan



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 comans var stricta Cheeseman


Endemic. South Island in a narrow area from the Mackenzie Basin, Waitaki and Central Otago


A species of mainly alluvial terraces, colluvial slopes and river flats. It prefers free draining soils and is often a local component of grey scrub communities. Seemingly unpalatable it often persists in paddocks alongside cattle and sheep.


Stiffly erect to drooping, buff-coloured to almost bleached white, green or red, densely caespitose sedge, 250-350 mm tall. Culms 50-200 x 0.5 mm smooth, often with a deep groove; basal sheaths dark brown to purple-red. Leaves numerous, much > culms, 0.8-0.9(-1) mm wide, plano-convex, rigid, grooved, margins scabrid. Spikes 3-6(-8); terminal spike male; remaining spikes female, 5-20 x 3-5 mm, distant, upper spikes sessile to sub-sessile, lower spikes narrower, flattened, with scabrid peduncles. Glumes (excluding awn) slightly < utricle length, broadly ovate, acute, pale cream with a few to many scattered fine brown striae, chartaceous, nerves beside midrib usually indistinct, awn long and narrow, finely scabrid. Utricles 2.5-3 x 1.5 mm, plano-convex to subtrigonous, elliptic-ovoid, pale brown, nerved on the convex face towards margin; beak 0.5 mm, deeply bidentate with spreading crura, margins and crura scabrid. Stigmas 3. Nut 1.5 mm, light grey-brown, trigonous, oblong-ovoid.

Similar Taxa

In the field most similar to either hard tussock Festuca novaezelandiae (which often has spikes visible above the leaves) or silver tussock Poa cita (which is usually a larger plant with typical grass flowers). Within the sedges most like Carex comans Bergg., C. albula is best distinguished from that species by the usually stiffly erect growth habit, pale foliage colour, and pale cream glumes. However some plants can also appear green or red and can only be distinguished from C. comans by the pale glume with small red flecks and by the obvious ven towards the margin of the outer face of the utricle. The peculiar bleached-white colour implied by the specific name is only apparent in some plants and is often imparted by the dead foliage (which is retained).


October - December


October - September

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from the division of whole plants and from fresh seed. Best suited for a well drained, sunny site in dry climates. This species dislikes humidity and soon dies if kept too moist. An unusual sedge well worth cultivating.


A local regional endemic. Though it does not seem to be particularly palatable as it is often found in some abundance within pasture otherwise heavily cropped by sheep and/or cattle, plants have been lost to spraying and cultivation. It also does not seem to tolerate competition from taller species

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 26 May 2014