African feather grass
|Common name:||African feather grass|
|Scientific name:||Pennisetum macrourum Trin.|
|Other scientific name/s:|
|Other common name/s:|
Catchment management authority boundaries
|Regionally prohibited in the Mallee, Wimmera, North Central, Corangamite, Goulburn Broken, North East, West Gippsland, East Gippsland, Port Phillip and Western Port Catchments|
|Regionally controlled in the Glenelg Hopkins Catchments|
|Restricted in no areas in Victoria|
Herbaceous plant - Graminoid (grass, sedge or rush)
African feather grass is an erect, perennial grass that can grow to a height of 2 m.
Stems are erect, cylindrical, unbranched and hairless. They grow to a length of 2 m with several stems emerging from a single crown.
Leaves are light green and strongly ribbed on the upper surface. They are a darker green underneath and sometimes purplish along the edges and tips.
Leaves grow up to 1.2 m long, 1.2 cm wide, are hairless or with a few hairs near base. They have fine serrations on the ribs, are slightly curled, and are sometimes drooping with up to five leaves per stem.
Sheaths have sparse covering of hairs. Emerging leaves are in-rolled which later become flattened but tips remain in-rolled.The ligule is fringed with hairs 0.5-1.5 mm long.
Flowers are purplish, yellow or brown with an erect or drooping, spike-like panicle which is 8-30 cm in length, 1-2 cm diameter and formed at the ends of stems.The flowers have numerous florets 5-7 mm long, surrounded by feather-like serrated bristles 1-1.5 cm in length.
African feather grass has an extensive fibrous root system with stout rhizomes to 7 cm diameter and 2 m length.
Growth and lifecycle
Method of reproduction and disperal
The seeds of African feather grass are bristled and easily cling to clothing, material and to the wool and hair of animals.
Seeds are spread readily by water and infestations are often found along streams. Plants growing on stream banks are capable of dispersing seed more than one kilometre downstream.
Seeds may also be dispersed by wind.
Rhizomes of the plant may be spread by cultivation equipment, road graders and other machinery. Once established, patches increase in size by lateral growth of roots and rhizomes.
Rate of growth and spread
African feather grass is an aggressive invader and often competes and displaces riparian vegetation.
Seedbank propagule persistence
Each plant is capable of producing more than 2,000 seeds annually. In dense patches, over 100,000 seeds can be produced per square metre, per year but in most years the number is far less because many florets are sterile.
Up to 80 per cent of the seed from African feather grass is viable. However, the majority of seeds are not long lived in the soil; surviving for less than five years.
African feather grass prefers sub humid, warm, temperate regions where it grows on stream banks, roadsides, poorer pastures and often in areas of sandy soil or with an annual rainfall above 600 mm.
It invades lowland grassland, grassy woodland, riparian vegetation and freshwater wetlands.
African feather grass tolerates a wide range of growing conditions. It can withstand water-logging and established plants are relatively drought resistant. However it requires full sunlight and does not grow well in shady bushland areas.
In Victoria, African feather grass is mainly confined to the area around Casterton and the Glenelg River, with satellite infestations at Macarthur, Penshurst and Coalville near Moe in Gippsland. Scattered plants have also been found on roadsides near Geelong.
The icons on the calendar below represent the times of year for flowering, seeding, germination, the dormancy period of African feather grass and also the optimum time for treatment.
Impact on ecosystems and waterways
African feather grass has the potential to suppress under-storey regeneration in grassy woodland areas.
Dense clumps of this weed can eliminate all other plant communities and result in a major displacement of grass species. Infestations may also present a fire hazard.
Large plants and infestations are capable of blocking waterways and channels by trapping silt and debris. They may also prevent physical access to streams and waterways.
Agricultural and economic impacts
African feather grass is predominately a pasture weed and can dominate in pastures, seriously impacting on grazing potential.
Once the plant is established, improving the pasture alone does not control the weed. Infested areas become unusable for grazing without significant control activities.
The bristled seeds of African feather grass easily cling to the wool and hair of animals.
Social value and health impacts
Dense infestations of African feather grass may present a fire hazard and are capable of preventing physical access to streams and waterways.
Prescribed measures for the control of noxious weeds
- Application of a registered herbicide
- Physical removal
Other management techniques
Changes in land use practices and spread prevention may also support African feather grass management after implementing the prescribed measures above.
Blood, K. (2001). Environmental weeds. a field guide for SE Australia, CH Jerram, Science Publishers, Mt Waverley, Victoria, Australia.
Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Tasmania. (2002). African Feather Grass, Service Sheet 106 (Agdex 647 106/98).
Parsons, W.T. & Cuthbertson, E.G. (1992). Noxious Weeds of Australia, Inkata Press, Melbourne and Sydney.
Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. (2001). Noxious weeds of Australia, 2nd edn, Inkata Press Melbourne & Sydney.
Department of Primary Industries, Regionally prohibited weeds information sheet - African feather grass.