Fimbristylis cymosa

leaf Main Plant Information






  • spathacea
  • umbello-capitata

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki

Hawaiian Names

  • Mauu akiaki

Common Names

  • Button sedge
  • Tropical fimbry


  • Fimbristylis cymosa var. pyncocephala
  • Fimbristylis pycnocephala
  • Fimbristylis umbellato-capitata

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Clumping

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Grass-like, Medium, 1 to 2.5
  • Grass-like, Tall, Greater than or equal to 2.5

Mature Size, Width

Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki has a 4- to 8-inch spread.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover

Additional Landscape Use Information

Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki are attractive as potted plants. Use in 6-inch pots with good drainage and allow soil to dry between waterings. Never use a saucer for pots.

Plants grown in full sun will be shorter than those in partial shade. This small sedge is a choice plant for rock gardens or between paving stones on lightly used pathways. Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki is a good replacement for mondo grass in sunny locations and being a xeric plant they require much less water too.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Brownish

Additional Flower Color Information

Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki has clustered flower and seed spikelets which range from rusty brown to grayish brown.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Additional Plant Texture Information

Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki leaves are stiff.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki is prone to ants, scale, thrips, mealy bugs, and aphids. The stiff leaves are slug and snail resistant. Plants in pots stressed from prolonged drying are subject to root mealy bugs or fungi.

leaf Growth Requirements


For mauʻu ʻakiʻaki, use small amounts of a balanced slow release fertilizer with minor elements every six months. Foliar feed monthly with kelp or fish emulsion, or a commercial fertilizer with a weak dilution of one- half to one-third of the recommended strength. This sedge is not a heavy feeder and too much fertilizer will encourage unnaturally long leaves.

Pruning Information

Flowering seed spikes are one of the attractive features of this sedge. However, trimming off the flower spikes will help the plants to last years longer. Never use a string trimmer to cut mauʻu ʻakiʻaki. This will result in a ratty appearance because a trimmer cannot make clean cuts. It is preferable to trim and remove dead material by hand.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Allow to dry between waterings. Keep moist for the first two or three weeks after planting and then slowly reduce watering. After the first month you will probably need to water infrequently.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Spacing Information

Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki should be spaced 4 to 6 inches apart.


  • Waterlogged Soil
  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat


  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Coral

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi
  • Northwest Islands

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Additional Habitat Information

Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki is common on sandy beaches and in shallow sand or silt on and among rocks and cracks in lava. Plants grown in full sun will be shorter than those in partial shade. Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki is a good plant for rock gardens, or between paving stones on lightly used pathways.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Fimbristylis belong to the Sedge Family (Cyperaceae) consisting of some 4,000 species in about 70 genera. Of the 200-300 species of Fimbristylis worldwide, three are native to the Hawaiian Islands.


The generic name Fimbristylis is derived from the Latin fimbria, thread or fringe, and the Greek stylos, pillar or column, in reference to the fimbriate style of some members of this genus.

The specific epithet cymosa is Latin for "full of shoots."

The subspecific name spathacea refers to the wide or open anthela (seed head or inflorescence).

The subspecific name umbello-capitata is derived from the Latin umbello (umbrella), shade or parasol, and capitatus, head, in reference to the umbrella-like or knobby seed head of this species.

Hawaiian Names:

Mauʻu is a general term for grasses, sedges, rushes and some herbaceous plants. ʻAkiʻaki is a name used for the seashore dropseed (Sporobolus virginicus), a grass that grows on sandy beaches. It is also a name red seaweed or limu (Ahnfeltia concinna).

Background Information

Mauʻu ʻakiʻaki do not have the characteristic sharp-edged leaves many other sedges are known for. Instead the leaves are short, stiff and pointed and thus well suited for its harsh coastal environment.

The main difference between the native two subspecies is in the seed head characteristics. The flower/seed clusters (inflorescens) of subsp. spathacea are splayed or spread out whereas subsp. umbellato-capitata have more compact, tighter clusters. The subspecies cymosa is not native to the Hawaiian Archipelago.

Additional References



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