Carex pumila


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.
pumila: small

Common Name(s)

sand sedge

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


Carex pumila Thunb.



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 littorea Labill.; Carex pumila Thunb. subsp. littorea (Labill.) Kük.


Indigenous. New Zealand: North, South and Chatham Islands. Uncommon in parts of the South Island. Also recorded from Australia, Lord Howe Island, Chile, China, Japan and Korea.


Mostly coastal, rarely extending inland. A species of mobile sand dunes, sand flats and dune slacks (swales). Sometimes found fringing the sandy margins of coastal rivers and lagoons. Occasionally found as an urban lawn weed, especially in coastal settlements.


Deep blue-green to glaucous, tufted sedge; tufts coarse, arising from a long, wiry creeping rhizome of c.2 mm diameter Culms mostly buried in sand, 50–300 mm long, terete, smooth, cream or light green, almost entirely enclosed by light brown or cream, occasionally red-brown leaf-sheaths. Leaves > culms, up to 400 mm long, 1.5–.0 mm. wide, channelled, rigid, glaucous, curved and tapering to a fine point, margins mostly smooth. Spikes 3–8, ± approximate; terminal spike male, often long-pedunculate, very slender, often with 1–3 very small, occasionally partly female, spikes at the base; remaining spikes female, often male at the top, 10–35 x c.10 mm. Glumes c.½ length of utricles, rarely only slightly < utricles, ovate, acute, red-brown, with broad colourless hyaline margins, midrib very pale brown, thickened, usually produced to a short awn. Utricles 6.0–7.5 x 2.0–3.5 mm, biconvex to subtrigonous, ovoid, light brown, thick, corky, turgid, smooth or faintly nerved, narrowed to a bifid beak, 1.5–2.0 mm long, orifice membranous, crura faintly scabrid at tip. Stigmas 3. Nut 2.5–4.0 x 1.5–2.5 mm., trigonous, obovoid, light brown, shortly mucronate.

Similar Taxa

None. The long, creeping, wiry rhizome, channeled, smooth-edged glaucous leaves and distinctly corky utricles are especially diagnostic.


October - December


December - June

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and by division of established plants. Will grow in most soils and conditions but does best in a freely draining medium in full sun. Some wild populations rarely set seed, and some selection of wild forms is merited. An excellent and highly under-rated sand binder.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 82

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Spongy utricles dispersed by water and wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).


Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (110 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