Carex buchananii


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.
buchananii: Named after John Buchanan (13 October 1819-1898) who was a New Zealand botanist and scientific artist and fellow of the Linnean Society.

Common Name(s)

Buchanans sedge, cutty grass

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 - Not Threatened
2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Carex buchananii Bergg.



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



Carex tenax Bergg,; Carex lucida Boott var. buchanani (Bergg.) Kük.


Endemic. New Zealand: North and South Islands. In the North Island uncommon. Known there only from scattered sites south of the Manawatu. In the South Island more widespread and at times locally common, though often sporadically distributed, and apparently absent from Westland and Fiordland. Scarce in Southland. Naturalised in Auckland City. Recorded as naturalised in the United Kingdom.


Coastal to montane (up to 1000 m a.s.l.). On beaches, lagoon, lake and stream margins, or in damp ground within open forest or short tussock grassland.


Densely tufted, strict, reddish brown, rarely yellow-green, sedge arising from an ascending rhizome c.3 mm diameter. Culms 70.0-900.0 × 0.5–1.5 mm. erect, rarely elongating to 1.2 m and becoming prostrate, semiterete, smooth and shining, basal sheaths dark red-purple, almost black. Leaves = or slightly > culms, c.1.0–1.5 mm wide, plano-convex, often semiterete, erect, wiry, linear, gradually narrowed and flattened towards the acute, occasionally cirrhose apices, smooth and shining, reddish or green on the back, upper surface matt, pale cream, margins scaberulous towards the base, more strongly serrulate towards the tip, sheath not much broader than lamina and of similar texture, with finely membranous margins. Spikes 5-6, silvery, distant, or the upper spikes approximate, sessile or the lowest slightly pedunculate; uppermost 1(-2) spikes male, cylindrical; lower spikes female, 5–30 × 3–4 mm., oblong, occasionally with a few male flowers at the base; bracts subtending lower spikes lf-like, much > inflorescence. Glumes (excluding awn) < or = utricles, ovate, acute, white and membranous, with a stronger midrib and long scabrid awn. Utricles 2.5-3.0 mm long, slightly > 1 mm wide, plano-convex, elliptic-ovoid, pale cream at the base with dark brown to purple-black splotches above or occasionally entirely pale green, faintly nerved, margins scabrid above, abruptly narrowed to a pale slender, recurved, deeply bifid beak, 0.5-1.0 mm long, margins ciliate-serrate, orifice scabrid, stipe minute. Stigmas 2. Nut c.1.5 mm, long, plano-convex to almost biconvex, obovoid, tapering towards the base, brown.

Similar Taxa

A very distinct and singular species easily recognised by the mostly reddish brown culms and leaves, rather tall, stiffly erect tufted habit, plano-convex often semiterete leaves, membranous, colourless glumes and usually dark-coloured utricles. The scabrid-beaked utricles resemble those of Carex albula Allan and C. comans Bergg., much smaller species from which C. buchananii differs by its taller, stiffly erect culms and leaves, and two rather than three stigmas.


October - December


November - June

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by the division of whole plants. Will tolerate most conditions, but does best in full sun in a permanently damp soil. In ideal conditions this species often naturalises, and it can at times become invasive. Next to C. comans this is one of the most commonly cultivated indigenous sedges.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 60

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Nuts surrounded by inflated utricles are dispersed by granivory and wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).


Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (10 August 2006). Description adapted from Moore and 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 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 18 Jun 2015