Chillean Needle Grass

What is Chilean needle grass?

(Nassella neesiana)
Potted plants - Chilean needle grass, photo: Christian GoninonGeneric Weed Distribution Map

  • Chilean needle grass is a perennial grass native to South America. It is a serious weed of pastures and native grasslands.
  • Chilean needle grass is a declared weed under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of Chilean needle grass are prohibited in Tasmania.
  • Chilean needle grass is also a Weed of National Significance (WONS).

How to identify Chilean needle grass

  • Chilean needle grass is a perennial (long-lived) tussock-forming grass growing to 1 metre in height. The leaves are 1 to 5 mm wide, flat and strongly ribbed on their upper surface, with leaf edges that are rough to touch.
  • The flowering seed heads are a distinctive purplish colour and the seeds are very sharp at the point. Chilean needle grass flowers mainly from September to December but can flower year round. Seed is formed about one month after flowering and most seed has been dropped by February. Seeds mainly germinate in autumn and spring.
  • Spread is by seed. In addition to the normal flower (panicle) seeds, Chilean needle grass produces hidden seeds which are formed in the nodes and bases of the flowering stems. These 'stem seeds' are self-fertilised and account for about one-quarter of total seed production. They enable the plant to survive despite grazing, slashing and fire.
  • Chilean needle grass seeds can persist in the soil for many years even if further seed input is prevented. The seeds are spread by farm machinery, clothing or livestock, by road-side mowing and earthmoving equipment, and by floodwaters.
Chilean needle grass - plant with seedheads, photo: Kate Blood, CRC Weeds
Image top right: Chilean needle grass potted plants, photo: Christian Goninon
Image above: Chilean needle grass, copyright: Kate Blood, CRC Weeds

Chilean needle grass in Tasmania

  • Currently Chilean needle grass populations are limited to the urban areas of Hobart, particularly the Eastern Shore, where it is found along roadside reserves and nature strips (see map). These infestations are currently under an eradication program.
  • Chilean needle grass is a vigorous competitor and poses a significant threat to native grasslands and agricultural enterprises in Tasmania. It can reduce pasture productivity, contaminate crops and hay, and seeds can injure livestock, in particular sheep.
  • This species is a very high priority for eradication in Tasmania. If you locate Chilean needle grass anywhere in Tasmania, or if you find a plant that you think could be Chilean needle grass, immediately contact a Regional Weed Management Officer on 1300 368 550.

What is the legal status of Chilean needle grass in your area?

Detailed management and control guidelines for Chilean needle grass can be found in the Chilean Needle Grass Control Guide. Refer also to Herbicides for Chilean Needle Grass Control. For further information see DPIPWE's Weed Links and Resources.

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