Rapier and Sword Sedges are in the genus Lepidosperma and they are very common in the Anglesea district, often forming monocultures.
Some of the species have leaf blades and flowering stems that are strap like and can be very cutting. Lepidosperma gladiatum is an example growing in the sand dunes at Main Beach Anglesea: it has extremely sharp edges and is known as a Sword Sedge, specifically Coast Sword-sedge. Species that have round leaf blades and flower stems are Rapier Sedges. Wire Rapier-sedge, Lepidosperma semiteres, is such an example.
Unfortunately, members of our Plant Study Group have found it difficult to identify some of the species, as the botanical key on the online Flora of Victoria website, which is used for identification, is not specific enough and there is great variability in the populations of many of the species. Consequently, we contacted Dr Austin Brown, an associate of the Melbourne Herbarium, to see if he could help us decipher the various species of Lepidosperma growing in our district. Last January together with Dr Brown we visited and sometimes collected Lepidosperma species from seven different locations in Anglesea/Aireys Inlet. Dr Brown has now studied these plants with Val Stajsic, a plant identification expert, at the Melbourne Herbarium and named all the specimens except one.
Dr Austin Brown and Gail Slykhuis, Lookout Flora Reserve, surrounded by Clustered Sword-sedge, Lepidosperma laeve
The following represent the most common species of Lepidosperma found in the district: Clustered Sword-sedge, Lepidosperma laeve, formerly known as Lepidosperma congestum, Lepidosperma sieberi formerly known as Lepidosperma concavum and Wire Rapier-sedge, Lepidosperma semiteres, which we have found is the most common Rapier-sedge found in the area.
Lepidosperma laeve was identified at the Lookout Flora Reserve. Interestingly R.V. Smith collected it from the same reserve in 1959 and submitted it to the herbarium. This was also identified growing in the coastal reserve at the end of Purnell St, Anglesea. It has extensive pink to dark red, horizontal rhizomes under the ground and therefore can often form large colonies, as they have at both locations. The flowering stem has margins that are smooth to touch and the brown leafy flower structures are in distinct clusters.
At the Anglesea Bushland Reserve, adjacent to Betleigh St and Elizabeth St, Sandhill Sword-sedge, Lepidosperma sieberi, and Wire Rapier-sedge, Lepidosperma semiteres, were also identified.
A very useful feature for identifying Lepidosperma sieberi is the fan shaped structure of the leaves at the base of the plant. The flowering stem has margins that are rough to touch and the brown leafy flower structures are very dense and clustered. Lepidosperma semiteres can be identified by feeling the flower stems, which appear to be rounded (1mm diam.), but as you twirl the stem between your fingers, you will notice they have one acute edge.
We have also found Pithy Sword-sedge, Lepidosperma longitudinale, which has the unique feature of compressible flower stems, and which grows in low lying areas along Gum Flat Rd near Woodlands Track, Gherang Gherang Bushland Reserve, and Snow Gum Reserve, Bellbrae.
Mary White, a stalwart of ANGAIR, submitted a tall specimen (nearly 2m tall) to the herbarium that she collected at Distillery Creek near the picnic ground in 1986, which was identified as Lepidosperma elatius. At an ANGAIR Workshop in 2012, Geoff Carr identified a plant with similar physical features to Mary’s specimen as Lepidosperma laterale var. majus. Currently the herbarium does not recognize the variety majus, so we are still unsure of this specimen’s identification. The fun continues as we find and identify all the Lepidosperma species in our area.
Carl Rayner and Gail Slykhuis
There are a number of wonderful local Friends Groups that provide ANGAIR members and the community with opportunities for involvement.