Fimbristylis vaginata

Brown's fimbristylis


Fimbristylis vaginata

(R.Br.) Domin 1915

pronounced: fim-bree-STY-liss vaj-in-AH-tuh

(Cyperaceae — the sedge family)

synonym — Fimbristylis brownii

Benth 1878

pronounced:fim-bree-STY-luss BROW-nee-eye

synonym — Abildgaardia vaginata

R.Br. 1810

pronounced: ab-bild-GARD-ee-ah vaj-in-AH-tuh

common name: Brown's fimbristylis

native 4If you have ever wondered how ‘they’ dream up some of the botanical names of plants, join the club! These are corkers! Abildgaardia is, as far as I can tell, in honour of Søren Pedersen Abildgaard (1718 –1791), Danish naturalist, writer and illustrator. He was something of an omnimath: besides being a naturalist, he wrote two books on mineralogy, and also made hundreds of drawings of historical monuments. Fimbristylis, although almost as difficult a tongue-twister, is easier to understand: from the Latin fimbriæ, fibres, threads, fringe, and the Greek στυλος (stylos), a pillar used as a support – with a fringed style. Vaginata is from the Latin vagina, a covering, sheath, and brownii is probably for Robert Brown (1773-1858), Scottish botanist and botanical explorer.

By the end of the wet season of 2010, I was astonished at how many different sedges there were, growing on the road verges and by the sides of the bush tracks in particular. Most of them I was not able to identify (especially those I would previously have lumped together under ‘nut grasses’), but there is little doubt about this delicate little sedge, growing under a tree on the roadside in Barbarra Street, Picnic Bay. The only pity is that it has been lumbered with such cumbersome names.

This is a glabrous, tufted perennial. Its culms are flattened, smooth and thread-like, 3–40 cm long and 0.2–0.5 mm in diameter. The leaves are reduced to sheaths.

The inflorescence consists of one sessile spikelet plus 1–5 spikelets on branches to 2 cm long. There are 1 or 2 involucral bracts, glume-like, much shorter than the inflorescence. The spikelets are erect, ovoid, acute, more-or-less flattened, 8 – 18 mm long, 2 – 3 mm in diameter. The glumes are membranous, acute, with a very small sharp-pointed end, 5.5 – 7.5 mm long, pale red-brown, with broad glass-like (often red-dotted) margins. There are 3 stamens: the anthers are 2.4 – 4 mm long. The style is glabrous, 5 – 7 mm long.

The fruit is a three-angled nut, about 1.5 mm long and 1 mm in diameter, pale brown to dark grey brown.

The plant is normally found in woodland near creeks, on sandy soil, in coastal regions of eastern Australia north from Brunswick Heads in NSW. The genus numbers well over 100, found world-wide, but mostly in tropical and sub-tropical regions.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2010
Page last updated 1st January 2019