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Serrated tussock

Serr tuss young

serr tuss seed on fence

serr tuss ligule

Serr tuss heads

Serr tuss lge old

Serrated tussock in flower

Serrated tussock seed (L) & native spear grass (R)

Serrated tussock winter colour

Serr tussock (R) & Poa lab (L)

River tussock

River tussock flowers

River tussock ligule

Stipa scabra lvs

Stipa scabra fl

Stipa scabra head

Hairy panic plant

Hairy panic seed on fence

Hairy panic seed, leaf hairs

   


status:

Serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma) is listed as noxious in class 4 in all LCAs of the Southern Tablelands and South East Region. This species cannot be propagated or sold anywhere in the state.

Description

Tussock grass to 0.5m with erect bright green rolled leaves less than 1mm wide, with a 1mm long hairless white flap (“ligule”) where the leaf joins the sheath (pull the leaf back from the stem to make it visible). The plants turn to a pale straw colour in winter.  Both the bright green and pale straw colouration stands out quite conspicuously from other grasses.

The long, branched seed heads have rather lax stems and can weep to the ground around the tussock,rather than standing erect. The young seeds are enclosed in a red sheath, giving the flowering plant a pink fluffy look. The seed is tiny and almost round with a fine thread-like awn attached off-centre at one end.


Serrated tussock is most aggressive in over-grazed pasture but it will invade any sort of grassy vegetation and adjacent bush. It has no feed value and reduces stock carrying capacity as well as reducing biodiversity in native vegetation.

Dispersal

Wind. The entire seed head snaps off and can blow long distances, often piling up against fences (see photo 2). Seed is also spread in the gut of stock, in soil on vehicles and by water.

Look-alikes

Natives, blown grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis or Agrostis avenacea as it was formerly called) and hairy panic (Panicum effusum) have seed heads which snap off and blow around, but both have wide leaves (to 5mm or so), and neither has the red appearance of the seed heads. Corkscrew grass (Austrostipa scabra) and native poa tussocks (Poa species) can look similar with the same erect leaf growth and very fine foliage but they have erect seed heads which stay on the plant after seed has been shed. The ligule of most Poa species is invisible to the naked eye and under magnification it is hairy on the back. River tussock (Poa labillardierei) is very common in wet, low-lying areas and can form large stands which are often confused with serrated tussock.  It is a larger plant with coarser leaves which are more blue-green than the bright green of serrated tussock (see photo above of the two together).

Control

Dig prior to seeding, spot or boom spray. For large infestations cultivate or spray and direct drill to establish competitive pasture species. It is important to maintain other pasture plants in vigorous condition as serrated tussock seedlings are not very competitive in dense pasture. However, applying fertiliser to established infestations is unlikely to help as mature serrated tussock plants respond well to fertiliser. Only the seedlings are susceptible to competition. Control of rabbits and of stock grazing pressure is crucial. Reafforestation may be a long-term solution in marginal farming land as serrated tussock is less competitive in shade and produces little seed when growing under a tree canopy.