Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa muelleri
Wiry Spear-grass,
Tangled Spear-grass
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
Least concern
Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 3

Prior names

Stipa muelleri

Common names

Wiry Spear-grass

Tangled Spear-grass


Austrostipa from the Latin 'auster' meaning south and the genus Stipa, referring to the genus being allied to Stipa but restricted to Australia. Muelleri named after Baron Ferdinand von Mueller (1825-1896), botanist, plant collector and Government Botanist of Victoria.

Distribution and status

Found in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges and the lower South-east in South Australia growing on sand, clay and gravel soils in heath, woodland and open forest. Native. Rare in South Australia.
Herbarium regions: Southern Lofty, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tufted rhizomatous perennial grass to 1 m long with decumbent wiry, branched culms and glabrous nodes. Leaves glabrous with blade closely inrolled to 1.5 mm long and 0.2 mm wide, soon deciduous. Inflorescence a reduced panicle to 5 cm long with 1-4 spikelets. Glumes to 30 mm long, purplish, narrowly truncate, subequal. Flowering between October and January.

Key to this species: lemma apex with long lobes (teeth) 1-3 mm; panicle with 1-4 spikelets; culm branched decumbent; leaves tiny 1 mm; rhizome. Fruits are brown linear-elliptic lemma to 20 mm long, with a tuberculate surface and covered in whitish hairs, with long lobes (teeth) at the apex to 3 mm long; coma absent; callus to 3 mm long; awn once or twice bent to 100 mm long, minutely pubescent; palea 3-5 mm shorter than lemma, with a line of hairs down the centre. Seeds are yellow-brown narrow-ellipsoid grain to 6 mm long within the lemma. Seed embryo type is lateral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between November and February. Use your hands to gently strip the seeds (lemma) off the mature fruiting spike, those that are turning golden brown. Mature seeds will come off easily compare to the immature seeds that remain on the spike. Alternatively, you can break off the whole fruit spike to allow some of the seeds to mature further. Place the seeds/spike in a tray and leave to dry for two weeks. No further cleaning is required if only seed collected. If seed spikes collected, use hand to strip off the mature seeds. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. Viability of grass seeds could be very viable, depending on time of seed collections and seasonal conditions.