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Chilean needle grass

CNG flowering head

CNG hairy leaves

CNG infestation

CNG unripe seed

CNG seed (top) & Austrostipa rudis seed

CNG node (L) & Austrostipa rudis (R)

Austrostipa rudis node & hairy leaf

Austrostipa bigeniculata plant

Austrostipa bigeniculata seed

Austrostipa bigeniculata seed head

Austrostipa mollis hairy awns

Austrostipa scabra

Austrostipa stuposa seed

     


status:

Chilean needle grass (Nassella neesiana) is listed as noxious in class 4 in all LCAs of the Southern Tablelands and South East Region. It cannot be propagated or sold anywhere in the state. Although not listed in a notifiable category in this region, it is sufficiently uncommon on the coast that residents of coastal areas should advise their local Council immediately if they think they have this weed, and get assistance to eradicate it.

Description

A tall grass potentially to 1m high, though the leaves are often held parallel to the ground rather than erect.  It has dark green flat to slightly in-rolled ribbed leaves to 5mm wide. Leaves are hairy on both surfaces, though sometimes only sparsely so. The joints of the flowering stems (nodes) are bent with fine short white hairs at the node and extending for some distance below the node. Seed is sharply pointed and red or purplish when young, 6-10mm long, with a long (60-90mm) awn attached at the top end of the seed. The best distinguishing feature is the membranous collar fringed with long hairs at the point where the awn attaches to the seed, but this may need magnification to be visible. Awns twist when mature and may tangle together.

Very invasive in pasture and on roadsides and other waste ground. This weed is well established around Canberra where it has been widely spread on road verges by slashing, and is invading other areas of the tablelands. It is not palatable to livestock and can replace more useful pasture grasses, and invade native grasslands and grassy woodlands.

Dispersal

Sharp-pointed seeds attach to animals and clothing, also in soil on machinery and vehicles. Most spread on the Southern Tablelands has been by roadside slashing.

Look-alikes

There are many native spear grasses (Austrostipa species) with similar pointed seeds with a long, curved or twice-bent awn but many have very narrow leaves and some have long hairs on the awns (e.g. Austrostipa mollis and A. densiflora, the latter common on the tablelands). The most similar is tall speargrass (Austrostipa bigeniculata), a very common tablelands pasture grass, which also has broad leaves, giving it a lusher appearance than most native speargrasses. It has a few short erect hairs at the seed/awn junction but not a membranous collar, and leaves are hairy on only one surface.  On the coast, the most similar grass is the common species Austrostipa rudis, which has broad leaves which are hairy on one surface, and no corona of long hairs at the seed/awn junction.  However, some native speargrasses have this collar of long hairs at the seed/awn junction, for example, Austrostipa stuposa, which occurs on the tablelands. Many of the speargrasses also have a red appearance when the seed is young (see photo of young corkscrew grass, Austrostipa scabra seeds).  The speargrasses also usually have white hairs at the stem nodes, but the hairs are confined to the swollen part of the node, rather than extending some distance down the stem below the node, as in Chilean needle grass (see photo comparing CNG with the common coastal grass Austrostipa rudis.  Many speargrasses have the lower leaf surface with a slight blue tinge, and paler than the bright green upper surface (see photo of Austrostipa rudis leaf and node).

Control

Dig or spray, preferably before the plants have a chance to set seed. Seed is long-lived in the soil so prevention of seeding is vital. Mowing with a catcher mower during flowering will reduce seed set but the clippings must be burnt. This grass can also produce seed hidden within the bases of the flowering stems ("cleistogenes") so mowing to prevent seeding will be only partially effective. Dug up plants should be burnt to destroy this hidden seed. Just destroying the obvious seed heads may not be sufficient.