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African feathergrass

African feathergrass1, plant

African feathergrass2, seed head

African feathergrass3, seed

African feathergrass4, leaf width

African feathergrass5, ligule

     


status:

African feathergrass (Pennisetum macrourum) is listed as noxious in class 5 in all LCAs of the Southern Tablelands and South East Region and throughout NSW. It cannot be sold, propagated or knowingly distributed anywhere in NSW. It has been sold as an ornamental grass and has become established in a few areas of South Australia.

description

African feathergrass is a large tussock-forming perennial grass to 2m in height, with leaves to 60cm long and 12mm wide. The cylindrical seed head is erect, up to 40cm long and 2cm wide, whitish or straw coloured, with long bristles.

preferred habitat and impacts

Currently known from a few widely separated locations in Victoria, South Australia, NSW, Tasmania and Western Australia , generally on sandy soils in coastal districts. It is drought-resistant and of low palatability, so could be quite damaging in both pasture and native vegetation. It provides rabbit harbour and creates a fire hazard.

Dispersal

It has occasionally been found for sale in nurseries and garden plants could give rise to new infestations. Existing plants spread by rhizomes. Seed sticks to animals and clothing, and may be spread over longer distances by this method. It may also be spread in soil on vehicle tyres and machinery, and by roadside slashing or roadworks.

Look-alikes

The long narrow straw coloured bristly seed heads are distinctive to this species. There are two grasses with fluffy purple or reddish seed heads, the native swamp foxtail grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides), which grows in wet areas, and has erect, short dark red bristly seed heads, and the introduced ornamental fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), now listed as noxious in class 5, though previously a popular garden plant. It has longer, often curving, purple bristly heads. See the fountain grass page for photos of these species.

Pigeon grasses (Setaria species) also have seed heads with long bristles, but they are much smaller than those of African feathergrass. See the fountain grass page for photos of these species.

Control

Dig or spot spray new infestations before seeding. Notify your local weed control authority if you think you have seen this weed.