Carex inopinata


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

Common Name(s)

grassy mat sedge

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable

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 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered
2004 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered


2012 - Sp
2009 - DP, CD, Sp


Carex inopinata Cook



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





Endemic. Eastern South Island from the upper Awatere River to Deep Creek and Tapanui, Southland.


Carex inopinata has been found in several different habitats, unified by their high fertility. These include riparian alluvial terraces under rohutu (Lophomyrtus obcordata (Raoul) Burret) forest, limestone and schist overhangs, and at a forest margin on a rubbly slope under shrubland. Occasional plants have been found at the base of limestone and schist rocks.


Rhizomatous, widely creeping sedge forming diffuse mats. Rhizomes 0.5-0.8 mm diameter, bearing widely spaced, tufted, leafy culms up to 10 mm long; basal culm sheaths dull brown. Leaves grass-like, > culms up to 100 x 1 mm, dark green, channelled, margins distinctly scabrid toward apex. Inflorescence of 2-3 pedunculate spikes; terminal spike male, slender; 1-2 lower spikes female, 5-7-flowered; bracts subtending inflorescence, numerous, leaf-like. Glumes more or less equal to or just < utricles, ovate-lanceolate, papery membranous, often streaked with red, midrib extending into ascabrid awn. utricle 6-7 mm, biconvex, ovate-lanceolate, basally light brown, grading to dark red-brown towards apex, nerves distinct, these light brown; beak very narrow, 3 mm long, deeply bifid, crura spreading, margins and orifice scabrid. Stigmas 3. Nut 2 mm, trigonous with distinctive rounded angles, oblong, grey-brown to brown.

Similar Taxa

Carex breviculmis and some species of hook sedge (Uncinia spp.) are similar. From these Carex inopinata can be recognised by the presence of fine teeth on the upper leaf margins only near the tip and by the few large, non-hook bearing, red-brown utricles. C. breviculmis leaves are also wider and finely toothed for their entire length, and its spikelets are evenly spaced up the stem, while the utricles smaller. Sterile specimens of hook sedge can be dsitinguished from C. inopinata by their leaves which are finely toothed for their entire length.


October to January


November to February

Propagation Technique

Easy from rooted pieces and fresh seed. An unusual plant that makes an attractive ground cover for a semi-shaded site. This species does best in a well drained, moderately fertile soil. Although it rarely flowers and fruits, some clones in cultivation do so frequently. Carex inopinata is very drought tolerant.


The diminutive stature and open, diffuse mat-forming habit increase this species vulnerability to introduced weeds. This species is intolerant of much competition from other taller or faster growing plants which is possibly why it favours semi-shaded situations. Some populations are threatened through recreational activities such as rock climbing.

Chromosome No.

2n = c.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 (31 August 2006): Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970) - see also de Lange et al. (2010).

References and further reading

de Lange, P.J.; Heenan, P.B.; Norton, D.A.; Rolfe, J.R.; Sawyer, J.W.D. 2010: Threatened Plants of New Zealand. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

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

This page last updated on 19 Dec 2014