Scleria sphacelata  F.Muell. 1875

pronounced: SKLER-ee-uh spack-el-LAH-tuh

(Cyperaceae – the sedge family)

common name:  Razor Grass

Scleria scleria sphacelata spikeletsspikeletsscleria sphacelatarazor grassis from the Greek σκληρος (skléros), hard, referring to the stony nutlet; sphacelata is from σφακελος (sphakelos), gangrene, mortification, or a spasm (and I have no idea why, unless it is that cuts from the species turn septic, if, indeed, they do).

Sedges are particularly difficult to identify, many of the differences between plants being microscopic. I have few doubts about this one, however, as it is recognizable by its distinctive white nut. It is a fairly common sedge on many of our hillsides, especially on Hawkings Point, where this plant was photographed.

The Scleria genus consists of fairly tall, coarse plants with leafy, 3-angled stems, sometimes with wings along the angles. They are found mostly in damp places, but sometimes in dry shady places in the forest.

scleria sphacelata detail of spikeletsdetail of spikeletScleria sphacelata is a very common local species: as well as being a Magnetic Island plant, it is found in many places around the Townsville area, especially in the Quarantine Station area at Pallerenda, and at Mount Stuart, Paluma, Alligator Creek and Bald Rock.

Its leaves are flat, and roughened on the margins, which is probably the reason for the common name. I notice that several species of this genus have the same common name, so ours may have it merely by association. As with most other Cyperaceae, the tiny flowers are arranged in spikelets, and the fruits are non-fleshy. The plants have a life-span of up to about 40 years, and produce their first seeds when 2 or 3 years old. They resprout well after fire, from basal rhizomes.

Caterpillars of the Small Dingy Skipper Hesperilla crypsigramma feed on the plant.

Photographs taken on Hawkings Point 2010

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