African Feather Grass

(Cenchrus macrourus)
Flowering African feather grass.    Photo: DPI Victoria

What is African feather grass

  • African feather grass (Cenchrus macrourus, syn. Pennisetum macrourum) is a weed of roadsides, waste areas, river banks and poorly maintained pastures.
  • African feather grass is a declared weed under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of African feather grass are prohibited in Tasmania.

How to identify African feather grass

  • African feather grass is a large tussock-forming grass growing to 2 m high, with an extensive root system down to 1 m in depth, and numerous rhizomes (underground stems) up to 2 m in length. These rhizomes give rise to new shoots around the parent tussock, enabling a single plant to spread quickly.
  • African feather grass leaves are light green above and grey-green below, and the leaf edge has fine serrations which can be felt as the finger is drawn from the tip to the base
  • African feather grass produces a long thin flower head in late spring to summer which is pale brown to straw colour, often with a purplish tinge. Prominent bristles approximately 10 mm long protrude out from the stem of the flower head. This distinctive flower head readily distinguishes African feather grass from the similar tussock-forming pampas grass.
  • Seed is released from the parent in late summer and autumn. The seeds are yellow to brown, with tiny barbed bristles attached to them, allowing them to easily lodge in animal fur and wool.
  • For help in identifying African feather grass, see the Dennis Morris Weeds and Endemic Flora database for illustrations. If you are still in doubt about the weed you are dealing with, contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 for help.

Roadside infestation of African feather grass African feather grass.  Photo: Marlborough District Council
Image top: African feather grass seedhead, © DPI Victoria.
Image above left: Roadside infestation of African feathergrass, © DPI Victoria
Image above right: Flowering plant, © Marlborough District Council.

African feather grass in Tasmania

African feather grass has been found in the Derwent and Huon Valleys, particularly near New Norfolk. Most infestations have been controlled.

African feather grass can eliminate all other plants, provide shelter for rabbits and feral cats, and present a significant fire hazard. Dense infestations can also restrict stock movement including blocking access to waterways, and large plants can totally block waterways and channels by trapping silt and debris.

What is the legal status of African feather grass in your area?

The legal responsibilities of landholders and other stakeholders in dealing with African feather grass are laid out in the Africa Feather Grass Statutory Weed Management Plan.

Use the African Feather Grass WMP in the Statutory Weed Management Plan to find out whether your area falls in an eradication or containment zone.

Detailed management and control guidelines for African feather grass can be found in the African Feather Grass Control Guide. Refer also to Herbicides for African Feather Grass Control.

See Also

African Feather Grass Control Guide

Do

  • Plan your control program, this will save time and money in the long-run;
  • Remove small infestations by hand, large infestations using machinery - but make sure the soil is removed down to the level of the deepest rhizomes;
  • Pile the removed soil somewhere where it can be monitored for regrowth of the weed;
  • Use mechanical removal and repeated cultivation to eradicate large infestations on arable land;
  • Always visit treated sites the following season to check for regrowth; use follow up treatment as required until fully eradicated.

Don't

  • Don't spread African feather grass by failing to wash down machinery and equipment between sites;
  • Don't leave any rhizome material in the soil when removing tussocks; these will quickly regrow;
  • Don't expect heavy grazing to eradicate large tussocks;
  • Don't rely on just one treatment: follow up is essential

Spread of African feather grass

  • African feather grass can spread by seed or by rhizome fragments.
  • African Feather Grass produces large quantities of seed. The seed is easily transported by animals due to the barbed bristles on the seed husk. Seed can also spread short distances by wind, or in water, for example during periodic flooding of roadside channels.
  • Fragments of rhizome can be picked up and spread in soil and mud on machinery and implements.

Avoid the introduction of African feather grass

  • African feather grass is usually spread by small fragments of rhizome being picked up and moved in soil on machinery and tools.
  • All machinery and tools used around African feather grass must be carefully cleaned to prevent fragments of rhizomes being transported from the site to other areas.
  • See the Washdown Guidelines for Weed and Disease Control for detailed information on how to wash-down equipment and personnel to reduce the chance of spreading African feather grass.

Physical removal

  • Small African feather grass plants can be removed using a spade or mattock.
  • Ensure all soil is removed down to the level of the deepest rhizomes, as rhizome material left in the soil will quickly regenerate.
  • The removed soil should be thoroughly cleaned of all root and rhizome fragments, or piled in an area that can be easily monitored for regrowth.
  • Larger plants may need heavy machinery such as an excavator for removal of the whole plant.
  • Again, all soil down to the deepest rhizomes must be removed and piled in an area that can be easily monitored for regrowth.
  • Excavation can be used to reduce the size of an African feather grass infestation, allowing easier follow up with cultivation or herbicide.

Cultivation

  • Small African feather grass infestations on arable land can be controlled using mechanical removal and repeated cultivation of the soil.
  • Each cultivation breaks up the rhizome system and encourages the buds to sprout. If cultivations are repeated often enough, the rhizomes eventually die.
  • Cultivation may be carried out at any time of the year, however best results are achieved over summer.

Grazing

  • Heavy grazing pressure on African feather grass can reduce the number of seedlings and shoots arising from rhizomes. However, grazing will not eradicate the larger tussocks.

Chemical control

  • A number of herbicides are registered for use on African feather grass in Tasmania. Use the Herbicides for African Feather Grass Control link for more information.
  • On large plants, herbicide treatment is more effective if the bulk of the plant is removed by burning or slashing, then herbicide applied to the regrowth when it is approximately 400 mm high.

Herbicides for African Feather Grass Control

Herbicides for African Feather Grass Control


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