Bulbinella modesta


Bulbinella: little bulb
modesta: Mild or modest

Common Name(s)

None known

Current Conservation Status

2018 - 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

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2009 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


2012 - Sp
2009 - DP


Bulbinella modesta L.B.Moore



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

Monocotyledonous Herbs




Endemic. South Island, West Coast. Known from scattered sites in lowland habitats south of Westport to about Okarito.


Lowland pakihi and associated swamp forest.


Summer green herb. Plants very slender, < or = 300 mm. Leaves bright green, < 10 mm wide, flaccid, linear-lanceolate, gradually tapering to a subacute apex. Inflorescence a somewhat short and broad raceme, bearing scattered, well spaced flowers borne on a slender, often twisted peduncle, this often decurved to procumbent. Flowers pedicellate, pedicels long, spreading, often recurved at apex. Individual flowers star-like, with yellow 9.5-13 mm, perianths. These long persistent, as shrivelled remnants pendant from the base of the ripening capsules. Capsules globose, 4-5-5 mm diameter. Seeds 3.5-4 mm long, brown, smooth and rounded without wings.

Similar Taxa

A rather distinct species unlikely to be confused with any of the other New Zealand Bulbinella species. Perhaps closest to B. talbotii L.B.Moore from which it is easily distinguished by the taller flower head with openly (laxly) arranged flowers. Some people believe it is very close to if not the same as B. hookeri (Hook.) Cheeseman. However, although quite variable this species can be immediately distinguished by its obovoid capsules, containing elongated, narrowly winged almost black seeds.


December - January

Flower Colours



December - March

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and division of whole plants. Prefers damp ground, with little (if any) competition from taller plants.


As a lowland species of alluvial forest, pakihi, and back swamps, this species has become vulnerable to forest logging and wetland drainage, and populations have declined through the spread of introduced wetland weeds such as Juncus bulbosus and J. squarrosus. However, recent surveys (2004, 2005) have found numerous populations comprising many hundreds of plants. The overall impression is that this species has probably increased its range due to human modification of forested systems, thereby creating more Pakihi wetlands, and that any decline is more likely to be the result of natural succession rather than any human induced threat.

Chromosome No.

2n = 14

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Seeds are dispersed by wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Not commercially available but plants are held by several Botanic Gardens and specialist growers



Description modified from Moore and Edgar (1970)

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I. Government Printer, Wellington. 354pp.

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 25 May 2014