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Genus Lepidosperma Family Cyperaceae

Description: Perennials, often with creeping rhizomes and clump-forming. Culms nodeless, compressed or terete.

Leaves basal; blade isobilateral, culm-like, or occasionally reduced to sheathing scales; ligule present.

Inflorescence panicle-like, simple or compound; involucral bracts usually shorter than inflorescence. Spikelets terete, with 1 bisexual flower (rarely 2) and usually 1 or more male flowers below it. Glumes 4–8, spirally arranged; lowest 2–4 empty, mostly shorter than upper fertile glumes; uppermost glume usually reduced. Hypogynous scales usually 6, rarely 3, basally inflated at maturity, often bristle-like and scabrous above, falling with nut. Stamens 3. Style 3-fid, continuous with ovary, persistent and fused with nut, shortly conical to pyramidal, acute to obtuse.

Nut trigonous to terete, crowned by paler style base, usually smooth at maturity but often irregularly wrinkled, with 3 pale ribs (not always obvious) extending from style base down sides of nut.

Photo John R. Hosking

Photo Karen L Wilson

Photo John R. Hosking

Photo John R. Hosking



Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 70 species, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia. Australia: c. 65 species (c. 60 species endemic), all States except N.T.

Nuts vary little between species, but hypogynous scales can vary within one taxon, often bearing a bristle-like apical appendage.

Text by K. L. Wilson November 2005
Taxon concept: KL Wilson in Flora of NSW vol 4

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Lepidosperma prospectum,    Lepidosperma sieberi

 Key to the species 
1Culms terete, or compressed so as to be oval in cross section (with rounded margins), or 4-angled, or irregularly angular, sometimes grooved, or more or less biconvex with 1 flat acute margin and the other rounded to broad-acute (Lepidosperma semiteres)2
Culms flat or concavo-convex or with 1 face convex, or biconvex with 2 clearly defined acute margins10
2Rachis strongly flexuous3
Rachis straight or scarcely curved
                       Back to 1
3Leaf sheaths very dark red-brown to dark grey-brown, straw-coloured near apex; fertile glumes 8–11 mm long, scarcely longer than basal sterile glumes; nut 4–5 mm long; hypogynous scales 3, plus 3 swollen stamen filamentsLepidosperma forsythii
Leaf sheaths straw-coloured to reddish; fertile glumes 7–9 mm long, to twice as long as the basal sterile glumes; nut 2.8–4 mm long; hypogynous scales 5 or 6, inflated; stamen filaments not swollen
                       Back to 2
Lepidosperma filiforme
4Spikelets in dense clusters, more or less appressed to central axis of more or less oblong inflorescence5
Spikelets loosely arranged along more or less spike-like branches of inflorescence
                       Back to 2
5Culms 4-angled (strongly so at least in part)Lepidosperma quadrangulatum
Culms terete or oval in cross section
                       Back to 4
6Culms terete but deeply to shallowly 1- or 2-grooved; nut with rounded fused style baseLepidosperma neesii
Culms oval in cross section; nut with pyramidal fused style base
                       Back to 5
Lepidosperma evansianum
7Culms subterete with 1 acute, flat margin, or irregularly angular, or biconvex with 1 acute margin and 1 rounded; spikelets spreadingLepidosperma semiteres
Culms terete or slightly compressed but without acute margins; spikelets appressed to spikelike branches
                       Back to 4
8Leaf sheaths blackish or very dark red-brownLepidosperma urophorum
Leaf sheaths straw-coloured, reddish, or orange-brown
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9Leaf sheaths straw-coloured to reddish; spikelets 6–10 mm long; fertile glumes 7–9 mm longLepidosperma filiforme
Leaf sheaths orange-brown to red-brown; spikelets 4–5 mm long; fertile glumes c. 4 mm long
                       Back to 8
Lepidosperma clipeicola
10Culms rather spongy, compressible, strongly biconvexLepidosperma longitudinale
Culms tough, not or scarcely compressible, flat to biconvex
                       Back to 1
11Inflorescence with loosely arranged spikelets and/or small inflorescence with few spikelets12
Inflorescence with more or less densely clustered, numerous spikelets
                       Back to 10
12Inflorescence 7–65 cm long, with long, more or less spreading branches13
Inflorescence 0.8–8 cm long, spike-like or with short branches more or less appressed to main axis
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13Culms with margins viscid, scabrous, often ciliateLepidosperma viscidum
Culms with margins scabrous or smooth but not viscid or ciliate
                       Back to 12
14Culms flat, or slightly convex on 1 face, or concavo-convex, 30–100 cm long, 2–8 mm wideLepidosperma laterale
Culms biconvex, or margins flat with central biconvex ridge, or strongly convex on 1 face and flat on the other, 70–180 cm long, 5–15 mm wide
                       Back to 13
Lepidosperma elatius
15Rachis flexuousLepidosperma tortuosum
Rachis straight or scarcely curved
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16Leaves equalling or exceeding inflorescences (to twice as long)Lepidosperma curtisiae
Leaves shorter than inflorescences
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17Spikelets mostly 3.5–4 mm long; culms usually biconvexLepidosperma gunnii
Spikelets mostly 5–8.5 mm long; culms usually flat or concavo-convex
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Lepidosperma laterale
18Inflorescence more or less ovate in outline with spreading ranches, 2–7 cm diam19
Inflorescence more or less narrow-oblong in outline, with branches more or less appressed to central axis, 1–2 (rarely to 3) cm diam
                       Back to 11
Lepidosperma limicola
19Culms with central biconvex ridge and thin, broad, flattened margins, 5–20 mm wideLepidosperma gladiatum
Culms flat, concavo-convex, or convex on 1 face and flat on the other, 3–7 mm wide
                       Back to 18
20Culm margins scabrous to scaberulous, somewhat cutting; culms flat, concavo-convex, or convex on 1 faceLepidosperma concavum
Culm margins smooth but cutting, often becoming erose with age; culms biconvex or convex on 1 face
                       Back to 19
Lepidosperma latens

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