Microlaena - a native yearlong green grass

Tablelands Telegraph - June 2022

Clare Edwards, Senior Land Services Officer, Pastures

Microlaena stipoides, also known as weeping grass or weeping rice grass, is a common native grass found across the tablelands. As a yearlong green species, it produces high quality feed from spring through to autumn. It can also grow during winter, although the growth is slow in colder areas.

Microlaena can be found as a major pasture species in higher elevation areas such as Hartley, Lithgow and Oberon. It tends to be a minor species in the slopes areas like Cumnock and Mudgee. Microlaena is often found under trees and shaded areas.

This summer and autumn, many pastures have seen microlaena produce a large bulk of feed and extensive seedheads. These seedheads are now falling over and are a distinctive straw colour. The seeds have two straight awns which can present a grass seed problem for livestock with potential for fleece contamination.

The leaf colour can be lime green to blue green, with a boat-shaped tip. Often there is a notch near the tip, with hairy auricles present. The plant also has rhizomes, so can withstand heavy grazing. It can grow up to 60cm in height, with flowering from late spring to autumn.

This interesting grass species will tolerate moderate to heavy grazing pressure. It can respond to increased soil fertility and will grow happily with legumes. However, maintaining a legume component (such as sub-clover) will require management in autumn for legume establishment. It will cope in very acid soils such as pH (CaCl2) around 4.0 – 4.5 and a high aluminium percentage.

Feedtests have recorded digestibility ranging 56-80% and crude protein 11.3-26.9% emphasising that that it can contribute to highly quality feed, especially when it is the vegetative stage (Common native grasses of central west NSW 2015). It is a native grass species that is worthy of identification and management to increase its presence in our paddocks.

I think further investigation is warranted, looking at harvesting, establishment techniques and best practice management of this important native species. There are a number of varieties also available to purchase from various seed companies. Note: Some varieties have been bred for lawns and turf situations.

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