Giant Umbrella Sedge

Cyperus ustulatus

(previously known as Mariscus ustulatus)

Giant Umbrella Sedge / Toetoe Ūpoko-tangata

ABOUT:
Another plant commonly referred to as cutty grass. Māori stripped the sharp outer edges from leaves before weaving mats and baskets from them, while kids made kites from the pithy stems.
Plants form a clump in wetland areas, providing nesting habitat for wetland birds.

IDENTIFY:     
1.5m high x 2m wide. The only umbrella sedge in New Zealand with dark seed heads. Leaves have a thin red stripe down the centre. Flower stems are triangular in cross-section. Toetoe ūpoko-tangata usually grows a lot bigger than all other umbrella sedges here as well.

USE:
Great in wetland regeneration and effluent fields, including coastal areas where it can help in binding sand dunes. Increasingly used for ornamental value.

PLANT:
Prefers water-edge planting, but will tolerate drier soils provided there is adequate irrigation. Space plants 60-90cm apart. Removal of dead leaves is necessary where grown in more formal settings. Tolerates light frosts, and needs full sun.

SIMILAR TO:     
Umbrella Sedge (Cyperus eragrostis) – An invasive weed, with flower heads that are green rather than dark brown.
Swamp Sedge (Carex lessoniana) – Similar wetland habitat, but greener leaves and flowerheads green, weeping and not umbrella-like.

ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE:     
Giant umbrella sedge is a wetland pioneer species, quickly establishing in an area by seed; its roots stabilising the soil. Similarly, stream banks are supported in this way. Plants are habitat for lizards and ground-nesting birds.

MORE INFO:
NZ Plant Conservation Network – Cyperus ustulatus
Tiritirimatangi – Toetoe

 

 

 

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