Carex fretalis


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

Common Name(s)

Curly 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 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Range Restricted


2012 - Sp
2009 - DP


Carex fretalis Hamlin



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





Endemic. South Island, Southland (Foveaux Strait area, Bluff Hill, Centre Island) and Stewart Island. Naturalised in Tasmania (where it is erroneously known as C. comans Bergg.)


A coastal species of relatively, exposed, open, damp, peaty ground, often overlying beach gravels. At Bluff Hill it has invaded surrounding pasture and is locally common along the track sides leading to the summit. On Stewart Island it often grows along tracks sides within the coastal portions of their routes, and is said to spread aggressively following fires or in heavily grazed areas.


Stiffly erect, tufted light yellow-green sedge with distinctly much curled and twisted leaf apices. Culms 100-150 x 0.5 mm, terete, glabrous, often elongating at maturity and becomign somewhat pendant toward the apex; basal sheaths light brown. Leaves more or less equal, or somewhat > culms, 1 mm wide, plano-convex, margins scabrid towards the very strongly cirrhose apex. Spikes 4-7; single terminal male spike rather slender; remaining spikes female, 10-25 x 4-5 mm, more or less oblong, more or less distant, erect, the uppermost sessile or shortly pedunculate, the lowest on a slender, pendant peduncle up to 10 mm long. Glumes (excluding awn) usually slightly < or equal to utricles, ovate-acuminate, hyaline though closely dotted with red brown striae, the cream midrib thickened and prolonged to an awn as long as glume or longer. Utricles 3.5 x 1 mm, plano-convex, ovoid, turgid, buff brown to tawny-yellow or tan, usually with distinctly paler nerves; scarcely narrowed to a glabrous beak, crura conspicuous, sometimes scabrid on margins; stipe relatively thick, 0.5 mm long, pale brown. Stigmas 3. Nut 1.5 mm, dark grey, trigonous, oblong-obovoid.

Similar Taxa

Very closely related to Carex comans Bergg., from which it differs by the usually pale yellow-green leaves with strongly curled (cirrhose) apices,an dlight brown, never purple-brown basal sheaths. The inflorescence tends to be shorter an dmore stiffly erect and the spikes fewer, broader and with larger, usually glabrous utricles which have a scarcely narrowed, usually glabrous beak rather than the distinct, and very scabrid beak seen in C. comans.


October - December


October - August

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by the division of established plants. It is this species which is the original Carex comans cv. Frosted Curls popular in cultivation, which was first discovered by Terry Hatch of Joy Plants, Pukekohe on Bluff Hill and mistakedly asigned to C. comans Bergg. However, over the last decade much of what is sold as cv. Frosted Curls is now, ironically, the green form of C. comans s.s. Carex fretalis does well in cultivation in a moist, free draining sunn situation or in semi-shade. It is naturalised in Tasmania.


Not Threatened. Carex fretalis is perhaps least common in the Southland part of its range but it is abundant over large parts of Stewart Island. There is no documented evidence of decline, and the species is listed onyl becaus eof its naturally restricted area of occupancy.

Chromosome No.

2n = c.60-64

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 12 Dec 2014