Carex applanata Thorsen & de Lange


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

Current Conservation Status

2018 - 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

2016 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon


2016 - DP, RR


Carex applanata Thorsen et de Lange



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class



None - first described in 2016.


Endemic. South Island, Central Otago and Northern Southland Mountains (Pisa, Old Man, Old Woman, The Remarkables and Umbrella Mountains)


Carex applanata is an alpine species of eroding gravel slopes and, less frequently, snowbanks.


Perennial herb forming patches to 200 mm diameter, tufts rather rigid, usually matted and flattened, spreading, surrounded by persistent dead leaves. Culms 8–60× 1.3–2.0 mm, spreading, ± trigonous, edges faintly and usually discontinuously scabrid on one or two edges. Leaves falcate, 10–60 mm long; leaf sheaths stramineous, distinctly wider than leaves, closely sheathing culm; leaf blades channelled, yellow-green, green to bronze green, leaf margins and keel minutely scabrid, tapering to a weakly triquetrous acute tip, this mostly dried and eroded in mature leaves leaving a lacerate sometimes weakly cirrhose stub. Inflorescence a congested cluster of 2–4(–7) dark brown to chestnut-brown similar spikes, the lowermost subtended by a single leaf-like bract; spikes subsessile or sessile, rarely shortly stalked, erect, 4.2–6.3 × 4.2–6.8mm, usually globose to ovoid, broadly cylindrical when immature, male flowers below female flowers. Glumes = to or slightly exceeding utricles, membranous, concavo-convex to concave; lower glumes narrowly ovate to ovate, acute, usually strongly keeled, keel apex prolonged, acute with keel prolongation extended as a minute scabrid awn; upper glumes ovate to broadly ovate, acute, mostly weakly keeled, keel failing just short of or flush with apex. Stamens 3, anthers 0.8–1.2 mm long, dark golden-yellow. Utricles 2.2–2.4(–2.7) × (1.2–)1.4(–1.9) mm, spreading at maturity, plano-convex, elliptic, elliptic-ovoid to ovoid, smooth, both surfaces weakly nerved, lower portion golden-brown or honey-coloured, upper portion darker golden-brown to brown, weakly winged, margins strongly scabrid in upper half to one-third. Stigmas 2; 0.9–1.2(–2.6) mm long. Achenes (1.0–)1.2 × 0.9(–1.0) mm, ovate to circular, biconvex, smooth, honey-brown; styles persistent

Similar Taxa

Carex applanata is likely to be confused with Carex lachenalii subsp. parkeri, C. kirkii, and C. pterocarpa, species with which it is sympatric. Carex lachenalii subsp. parkeri is distinguished from C. applanata by its rhizomatous growth habit, glaucous foliage and culms, mostly erect to weakly divergent, narrower leaves whose leaf bases have a serrate margin, and whose apex is distinctly flattened, and also by the culm, which is distinctly longer than the leaves. Carex kirkii differs from C. applanata by its different flowering and fruiting time (December–March), distinctly awned elongate glume, rhizomatous habit; narrower foliage and by the lower leaves, which are only weakly divergent. Carex pterocarpa differs from C. applanata in its papillose utricles, female flowers above the male in the spikes, its strongly tristichous, shorter, rapidly tapering, erect leaves. Both C. kirkii and C. pterocarpa have the male flowers above the female in the spikes.





Propagation Technique

Carex applanata has been cultivated but as a newly described species its cultivation needs are still poorly known.


Carex applanata does not seem to be threatened. Beyond observations of browsing from hares (Lepus europaeus occidentalis), which does not seem to cause the ill-thrift of plants the species seems secure in its alpine habitats. In those areas exotic plant are scarce, the most commonly seen is the hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum), which is not known to co-occur with C. applanata. Although the total area occupied by Carex applanata is believed to be small (c. 4 ha spread over 10 sites), the total number of plants is believed to number in the 1000s. For this reason it is recommended that the species be listedas 'At Risk / Naturally Uncommon' qualified 'Range Restricted' and 'Data Poor'.

Chromosome No.

2n = c.68–70

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family



Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (16 May 2016). Description adapted from Thorsen & de Lange (2016)

References and further reading

Thorsen, M.J.; de Lange, P.J. 2016: Carex applanata (Cyperaceae), a new species from southern New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 54 (2) DOI: 10.1080/0028825X.2016.1167092


This page last updated on 17 May 2016