T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Ficinia spiralis (Pingao)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Monocots
(Unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Cyperaceae
Genus: Ficinia
Species: F. spiralis
Binomial name: Ficinia spiralis
Synonyms: Isolepis spiralis, Desmoschoenus spiralis, Anthophyllum urvillei, Scirpus frondosus, Scirpus spiralis.
Common name: Pingao, Pikao, Tane's Eyebrows, Golden sand sedge,

Ficinia spiralis is an endangered coastal sedge endemic to New Zealand (including the Chatham Islands). Originally widespread, it has suffered severely from competition with introduced marram grass and its demise is also blamed on human activity – fires, vehicles, grazing, trampling by humans and livestock and browsing by introduced pests like rabbits, possums and hares. It is now found growing naturally only in a few remnant populations or where community and iwi groups have successfully re-established it in scattered pockets around the country. In Taranaki it is uncommon although it is now planted in several locations.
Ficinia spiralis roughly textured leaves are yellow-green when fresh and golden when dry. The leaves (2–5 mm wide) are borne in dense tufts on short, upright stems, along the length of thick, long, prostrate, tough, rope-like rhizomes that creep along the sand surface and are buried by shifting sands. This extensive root system captures water and sustains the plant through dry conditions. It favours the front face of active unstable dunes where its rhizomes trap sand, binding and stabilising the dunes.
Small, dark brown flowers appear in spring-summer and are arranged spirally in tight clusters around the upper 10–30 cm of the upright stem, interspersed with leaf-like bracts.
Dark red-brown seed heads appear in December to January.
Maori use the leaves of pingao for weaving the yellow sections of tukutuku panels inside meeting houses.

Photographed at Whangamata beach. Ficinia spiralis is the orange grass. The green grass is Spiniflex sericeus (Kowhangatara).


Photographed at Christchurch Botanilal gardens.


Photographed at Whangamata beach.






Photographed at Ships Cove Westland. 

Pingoa seed heads.


Seed heads December.