holy grass, kāretu
Holcus redolens Vahl, Avena redolens (Vahl) Pers., Anthoxanthum redolens (Vahl) D.Royen, Hierochloe antarctica var. redolens (Vahl) Raspail, Holcus redolens R.Br., Torresia redolens Roem. et Schult., Hierachloe banksiana Endl., Hierochloe redolens (Vahl) Roem. et Schult.
Vascular – Native
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.
2n = 84
Current conservation status
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2017 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: By Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, John W. Barkla, Shannel P. Courtney, Paul D. Champion, Leon R. Perrie, Sarah M. Beadel, Kerry A. Ford, Ilse Breitwieser, Ines Schönberger, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Peter B. Heenan and Kate Ladley.
2012 | Not Threatened
Previous conservation statuses
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
Large scented grass with broad leaves.
Indigenous. Throughout North (uncommon north of Rotorua), South and Chatham Islands. Also on the Three Kings Islands. Indigenous to Australia, New Guinea and South America
In tussock grassland.
Robust, lax tufts. Leaf-sheath glabrous, ± striate, lower ± purplish. Ligule 2-3 mm, chartaceous, ± irregularly rounded. Leaf-blade to 70 cm × 8-12 mm, abaxially ± glabrous, adaxially scabrid on prominent ribs; margins glabrous or prickle-toothed. Culm to 130 cm, internodes glabrous. Panicle 20-30 cm, erect, nodding above, and lower branches also nodding; branches binate at nodes, very slender, naked for ½ to ¾ length, spikelets crowded distally; pedicels 0.5-2 mm, villous. Glumes unequal, membranous, scarious, glabrous, ovate, acute, keeled, 3-nerved; lower 6-7 mm, mostly ≥ lower floret, upper 7-8 mm, > second floret. Florets pale straw-coloured. ♂ florets: lemma 5-6.5 mm, oblong-ovate, lobes c. 1 mm, chartaceous with scarious tips, long hairs on keel below, minutely scabrid above, margins ciliate with soft, silvery hairs; awns 3.5-6 mm, slender, ± straight, insertion 3-4 mm above base; palea 4-5.5 mm, membranous, irregularly finely scabrid on keels; lodicules 1-1.6 mm, ± ovate, lobed, acute, glabrous; callus hairs to 1.25 mm; anthers 2-3 mm. ☿ floret: lemma 4.5-6 mm, narrow-ovate, glabrous, apex minutely hairy, muticous to subapically mucronate 0.25-0.5 mm; palea 4-5.5 mm, ovate-lanceolate, keel 1-(2) finely irregularly ciliate; lodicules 0.75-1 mm, ovate-oblong, abruptly tapering, often lateral lobed, glabrous; anthers 1-1.5 mm; gynoecium: ovary c. 1 mm, stigma-styles 4-5 mm; caryopsis c. 2 mm, embryo 0.5 mm, hilum 0.75 mm.
Distinguished from other native members of the genus by the clearly awned florets, which on the males florets are inserted near lemma base and the awns of upper male floret being straight.
Can be superficially silimar to the extotic tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum) but can be readily seperated by the scented leaves and obviously awned florets.
Florets are water and wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).
anthoxanthum: From the Greek 'anthos' meaning flower and 'xanthum'= yellow, referring to the colour of the panicles.
Hierochloe brunonis Hook.f. and H. fusca Zotov are probably better regarded as part of H. redolens.
Fact sheet prepared by Marley Ford (21 April 2021). Habitat, Features and similar taxa sections modified from Edgar & Connor (2000).
References and further reading
Edgar, E. & Connor, H.E. 2000: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. V. Grasses. Christchurch, Manaaki Whenua Press. 650 pp.
Ford, M. 2023. The return of Holy Grass, a century unrecorded in the North. Trilepidea 228. 10-12.
Johnson, A. T. & Smith, H. A (1986). Plant Names Simplified: Their pronunciation, derivation and meaning. Landsman Bookshop Ltd: Buckenhill, UK.
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 11: 285-309