seabird holy grass
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 threat classification 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) – more information about this can be found on the NZTCS website 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. Please note, threat classifications are often suggested by authors when publications fall between NZTCS assessment periods – a suggested threat classification status has not been assessed by the NZTCS panel.
2017 | Not Threatened
Previous conservation statuses
2012 | Not Threatened
2009 | Not Threatened | Qualifiers: DP
2004 | Sparse
Endemic. Kapiti Island, South Island (western and southern coasts) from Westport. Stewart, Chatham, Antipodes and Campbell Islands
Coastal. Associated with seal haulouts, and seabird roosts and nesting areas. Mainly found on offshore islands. On the Chatham Islands it has been gathered well inland from peat lake margins.
Robust or somewhat lax, aromaitc, tufted grass often forming stout tussocks in or near seal haul outs or sea bird nesting grounds. Leaf-sheath glabrous, more or less striate. Ligule 3-5 mm, chartaceous, hairy, erose to variously lobed. Leaf-blade 300-750(-800) x 9-12 mm, tapering, lower surface glabrous, upper surface scabrid on the main (prominent) ribs; margins thick, toothed. Culm 0.6-1.5 m, internodes glabrous, ridged. Panicle 150-380 mm, erect; branches 1-2 at each node, glabrous, naked below, spikelets densely crowded above; pedicels scabrid or villous. Glumes subequal, membranous with wide scarious margins and tips, ovate-lanceolate, acute, galbrous, keeled; upper 7-9 mm, 3-nerved. Florests included by glumes, brown to dark brown at maturity. Male florets with lemma 6-8 mm, oblong-ovate, lobes 1.1.25 mm, erose and scarious-tipped, sparsely finely scabrid, long hairs at base, margins sparsely long-ciliate; awns 3-7 mm, slender, straight or slightly curved, insertion 1-2 mm below apex; palea 5-6 mm, membranous, keels ciliate; lodicules 0.5-1 mm, ovate, acute, irregularly 1-2-lobed, glabrous; callus hairs to 1 mm; anthers 2.5-3.5 mm. Perfect flowers with lemma 5 mm, narrow-ovate, glabrous, apex minutely hairy, mucro 0-0.5 mm; palea about equal to lemma in length, keel toothed to base, ovate-lanceolate; lodicules 0.5 mm, glabrous; anthers 1.5-2 mm; ovary 1 mm, stigma-styles 5-6 mm. Seed 2-2.5 x 0.75 mm. Spikelets sometimes vivaporous.
Superficially similar to H. redolens (Vahl) Roem. et Schult. and H. brunonis Hook.f., species with which it may on occasion grow. It is distinguished from both (usually) by its much taller, robust tufted habit. In perfect flowers of this species the florets are distinctly awned, their lemmas are scarcely bearded, and the awns of the male florets are inserted near the lemma apex rather than near the base.
November - January
December - April (-June)
Easy from fresh seed and the division of whole plants. Prefers a damp, fertile soil in full sun.
A local endemic, sparsely distributed throughout its range. As a species of guano-rich habitats it is quite likely that it has undergone some past range contraction, and in the South Island this may even be continuing. Naturally Uncommon and Biologically Sparse.
hierochloe: From the Greek hieros ‘sacred’ and chloa ‘grass’ meaning holy grass. European species of this grass were once strewn on church floors.
fusca: Brown tinged with grey or black
Where To Buy
Occasionally offered by specialist native plant nurseries
Notes on taxonomy
Doubtfully distinct from Hierochloe redolens and H. brunonis. The three have the same chromosome number and nrDNA ITS sequences and appear to intergrade. Kapiti Island plants in particular are vegetatively rather different from the robust tufted grass more typical of this species in the rest of its range. Nevertheless Dr H. E. Connor (pers. comm. 2006) has advised that the floral distinctions hold, and that in his revision of the genus he is likely to maintain all three species.
Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by Peter J. de Lange 30 August 2000. Description modified from Edgar and 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.
Johnson, A. T. and Smith, H. A (1986). Plant Names Simplified: Their pronunciation, derivation and meaning. Landsman Bookshop Ltd: Buckenhill, UK.
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Hierochloe fusca Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/hierochloe-fusca/ (Date website was queried)