Square sedge, square-stemmed sedge
Vauthiera australis A.Rich.; Cladium vauthiera C.B.Clarke ex Cheeseman; Claudium australe (A.Rich.) Druce; Machaerina australis (A.Rich.) Koyama
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.
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
Endemic. North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands.
Coastal to alpine (up to 1300 m a.s.l.), usually in open ground, seral vegetation or peat bogs. Colonising seasonally dry, or well drained substrates as well as permanently wet substrates such as peat.
Stout, rush-like sedge forming dense blue-green to dark green patches up to 2 m tall. Rhizomes short, lignaceous, 2-3 mm diameter, bearing distant apiculate, dark brown scales. Culms quadrangular, glabrous, densely packed, rigidly erect, coriaceous, 0.2-2.0 m tall, 1.0-2.5 mm diameter, dark blue or grey-green (glaucous). Leaves all reduced to brown, sheathing, membranous, mucronate bracts, or the upper 1-2 with laminae quadrangular, or occasionally trigonous 50-350 mm long with subulate, pungent, dark brown apices. Inflorescences a 10-40 x 5-15 mm, dense, contracted, spicate head; subtending bract usually < inflorescence with a rigid, subulate awn up to 15 mm long. Spikelets 1-flowered, 4-5 mm long, on short, stout, stiff stalks. Glumes 4-6, the lowest broadly ovate, mucronate, the upper ones ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, coriaceous, papillose with scabrid midrib and margins, midrib distinctly thickened; only the uppermost glume fertile, the rest empty. Hypogynous scales 6, 0.5 mm long, white, triangular when mature, fused at the base to form a 6-lobed persistent cup. Anthers with an elongated red connective. Nut 4 mm long, lustrous light brown, more or less trigonous, oblong-ellipsoid, smooth, narrowed above to the persistent, scabrid style-base.
None. This species is easily distinguished by the culms which are usually dark blue-green and square in cross-section - hence the common names square sedge and square-stemmed sedge.
August - December
October - July (often present year round)
Scaly nuts are dispersed by water, wind and possibly ants (Thorsen et al., 2009).
Can be difficult to cultivate. The seed is difficult to germinate, and plants resent root disturbance and usually die if transplanted. However, considerable success has been achieved growing plants and/or germinating seed in untreated saw dust. Despite these problems this is an attractive species well worth attempting to grow. Once established it flourishes in a range of conditions from full sun in free draining soil to shade and permanently damp soils.
lepidosperma: Scale seed
australe: Southern, from the Latin australis
Where To Buy
Plants are occasionally available from specialist nurseries.
Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (8 September 2006). Description adapted from Moore & 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 11: 285-309
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Lepidosperma australe Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/lepidosperma-australe/ (Date website was queried)