Five less common grasses

Tablelands Telegraph - July 2022

Clare Edwards, Senior Land Services Officer - Pastures

I often write about the more common native and introduced pasture species on the Central Tablelands. However, this month, I'm covering five of the less common grass species you may come across.

Some are prevalent in certain areas, while one or two are considered ‘weedy’. One is very useful on wet salty areas and others are infrequent but can be important for native biodiversity.

 

Red Natal grass (Melinis repens)

This is an introduced warm season annual or short-lived perennial grass species. It is often found on roadsides (eg there are a couple of patches east of the Castlereagh highway near Mudgee).  It is also seen around Sydney and in coastal environments. The red flowerheads, seen in autumn, are a great recognition feature for this grass. It dies off in winter, has little feed value for stock and shows poor persistence in pastures.

Image - H Rose

 

Whisky grass (Andropogon virginicus)

Whisky grass is an introduced warm season perennial grass that is found on roadsides and in areas of lighter soil. It turns a distinct tawny-brown-straw colour in winter. Its cream fluffy spatheate seedhead is a prominent feature. It has poor forage value and can be abundant in the absence of grazing. This species is of concern in areas of high conservation native biodiversity and low fertility soils, as it can be invasive. There are patches near Ben Bullen, Newbridge, Goolma and Ulan.

Image - H Rose

 

Mat grass (Hemarthria uncinate)

A native warm-season perennial grass found around damp or wet situations such as swamps or drainage lines. It is an important native species for these areas. Its growth habit as a mat-forming grass (with stolons and rhizomes) allows it be part of the native biodiversity and importantly holds the soil together. It is rarely eaten by stock and is of low forage value. I have had enquiries about this species from the Nullo Mountain, Capertee and Hampton areas.

Image - H Rose

 

Wiry panic or right angled grass (Entolasia stricta)

This grass is a native warm season perennial, often with rhizomes, and growing up to 1.2m tall. It flowers in late summer – early autumn. Commonly found in dry low fertility sites such as sandstone-based soils. It is an important ground-cover species as it grows in very poor soils where there can be sparse groundcover. The leaves show a distinctive inwards curve. This species is rarely grazed, as it generally occurs in areas of very sparse biomass and has low forage value. I have seen it growing in light soils in the Capertee Valley and Kanimbla Valley areas.

Image - C Edwards

 

Puccinellia (Puccinellia ciliate)

This is an introduced cool season perennial grass that can grow up to 70cm tall. It is used as a species to reclaim salt, scalded and wet areas. It is very tolerant of waterlogging, but slow to establish and not highly productive. The species is often found in areas where it has been sown in the past for soil and landscape management. Sometimes found with other species sown for saline reclamation such as tall wheat grass, fescue and strawberry clover. It is more likely to be seen on the slopes country and salty areas of the region.

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