Pingao, the NZ golden sand sedge (Ficinia spiralis) is a coastal plant which grows on active sand dunes and has the effect of stabilising them. It is lovely and tough - able to grow closer to the water's edge than any other such sand binding plant. It was apparently widespread, but became endangered following the arrival of European colonists. In the last decade or so, conservation efforts and replanting mean that it is increasingly in evidence, adorning the dunes along Wellington's south coast. The tough leaves hold their bright golden colour well and are used in traditional Maori weaving to great effect.
This is a very simple kete - a Maori woven kit, made of pingao and showing the unfading natural colour of the leaves despite it being over thirty years old:
The flowers, on the other hand, are inconspicuous and rather odd (to me) in appearance.
A close-up reveals the densely packed small flowers which spiral around the upright flowering spike, or culm. They are followed by shiny dark brown seeds in early summer.
I have to admit that it is only in the last few years that I have even noticed the flowers - my eyes focused instead on the golden colour of the leaves.
The plants on the dunes of the south coast - in this case, Lyall Bay, are blasted by the wind, and the leaves form a dense tangle about the flower spikes. The young leaves are a fresh green with just a touch of gold. As they mature they tend to become the rich gold that is so special for beach-goers and weavers alike.
I am so grateful that such conservation work is being done!