Pīngao

Ficinia spiralis

(previously known as Desmoschoenus spiralis)

Pīngao / Golden Sand Sedge

ABOUT:
A bright-orange dune-holding grass, threatened in the wild by human activity and the introduced Marram Grass. Dried Pīngao leaves are yellow, and popular in Māori weaving – particularly in tukutuku panels. Young shoots were steamed and eaten.
Māori mythology tells of Tane’s eyebrows being rejected as a gift to his brother, Tangaroa. These fell to the sand dunes, growing into the Pīngao plant.

IDENTIFY:     
30cm-90cm high, creeping laterally on runners on or under the sand surface. Leaves are coarse and green, curved and sharp along their edges. The leaves turn to vibrant orange in time.

USE:
Perfect as a groundcover in coastal areas. Dune stabilisation and restoration are key uses. Underutilised in amenity planting.

PLANT:
Prefers full sun, unstable soil and an exposed site. Coastal sand dunes are ideal, but not necessary. Ensure soil/sand is loose and very well-draining.

 

SIMILAR TO:     
Libertia species (Libertia spp.) – Leaves are orange, but very straight; uncurved. Leaves are not sharp-edged. Flowers have white petals rather than the insignificant flowers of Pīngao.

ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE:     
Naturally occurring Pīngao is a good indicator of biological diversity in an area. Pīngao stabilises the dunes, permitting the establishment of other species such as Pohuehue. Pīngao also helps raise the sand level to where it should be, above the high-tide mark, providing sheltered nesting sites for the New Zealand Dotterel as well as hiding places for the young.

MORE INFO:
Landcare Research – Weaving Plants: Pīngao
Taranaki Educational Resource – Pīngao
NZ Plant Conservation Network – Pīngao
Department of Conservation – Pīngao

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