Aciphylla colensoi


Aciphylla: From the Latin acicula 'needle' and the Greek phyllum 'leaf', meaning needle-leaf.
colensoi: Named after William Colenso (7 November 1811 - 10 February 1899) who was a Cornish Christian missionary to New Zealand, and also a printer, botanist, explorer and politician.

Common Name(s)

Giant speargrass, Taramea

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

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

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Aciphylla colensoi Hook.f.



Brief Description

Large thick spikey green-leaved clumps with an obvious yellow flower spike. Leaf midrib obvious and red or reddish-orange

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

Dicotyledonous Herbs other than Composites


Endemic. North and South Islands. Mt Hikurangi south to mid-Canterbury


Montane to low-alpine grassland and shrubland. 900-1500 m a.s.l.


Small to large tufted herb to 1 m tall when in flower. Rosettes single or multiple. Leaves many, stout, 1-pinnate to occasionally 2-pinnate, to 30-50 cm long; sheath thin, to 6 cm long; stipules stiff, simple or occasionally with small accessory pinnules, to 70 cm long x 4 mm wide, tapering, pungent; petioles to 10 cm long, stout, winged; lower internodes (inter-pinna spacing) 3-4 cm long, decreasing up leaf; pinnae 2-4 pairs, slender, strongly serrulate, midrib broad, prominent, red to orange, lower laminae of pinna to c. 20-40(-45) cm long x c. 12 mm wide, narrowing to pungent apex. Flowering stem of male and female similar (female narrower and darker), narrow-oblong, 1 m or more long; lower bract sheaths to 30 x 12 mm tapering to long pungent tips; lower bract lamina ribbed, c. 10 cm long x 3-4 mm wide, with stout prominent red to yellow midrib, apex with pungent point to 3 mm long. Umbels crowded, distributed along from near base of flower spike peduncle; umbellules crowded, on slender rays to 1 cm long. Fruit of two mericarps; mericarps narrow to elliptic, (7.0-)8.0-12.0 mm, with 3-4(-5) even narrowly winged ribs, other ribs not evident, vittae evident as dark ribs between wings or largely obscured

Similar Taxa

Similar in some aspects to Aciphylla scott-thomsonii, but this species is larger, glaucous and without the obvious reddish midveins.

Flower Colours



Not Threatened

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Winged schizocarps are dispersed primarily by wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).


Description adapted from Allan (1961), Mark Adams (1995) and Webb, C.J. & Simpson (2001).

References and further reading

Alla, H. H. 1961.Flora of New Zealand, Volume 1: Indigenous Tracheophyta - Psilopsida, Lycopsida, Filicopsida, Gymnospermae, Dicotyledons. Botany Division, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Wellington, New Zealand.

Mark, A.F; Adams, N.M. 1995. New Zealand alpine plants, 2nd Edition. Godwit Publishing, Auckland

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

Webb, C.J. &  Simpson, M.J.A. 2001. Seeds of NZ gymnosperms and dicotyledons. Manuka Press, Christchurch

This page last updated on 29 Apr 2014