Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa gibbosa
Spurred Spear-grass,
Swollen Spear-grass
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
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Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 3

Prior names

Stipa aristiglumis

Stipa gibbosa

Common names

Spurred Spear-grass

Swollen 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. Gibbosa from the Latin 'gibba' meaning swollen and suffix '-osus' indicating amount, referring to its asymmetrical lemma, swollen on one side

Distribution and status

Found in the southern Flinders Ranges, Mount Lofty Ranges and the South-east in South Australia growing on rich loamy soil along creeks and seasonally wet areas in woodland and grassland. Also found in New South Wales and Victoria. Native. Rare in South Australia. Common in the other states.
Herbarium regions: Flinders Ranges, Northern Lofty, Murray, Southern Lofty, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tufted perennial grass to 1.5 m high with culms unbranched and pubescent nodes. Leaves glabrous or sparsely pubescent, sometimes scabrous with blade flat, channelled or inrolled to 30 cm long and 5 mm wide. Inflorescence an open panicle to 40 cm long with bulging green glumes. Flowering between October and January.

Key to this species: awn twice bent with coma; panicle open with long spreading branches; glumes inflated; callus short-hooked; lemma short 4.5-6.6 mm, with an asymetric bulge (dorsal hump); awn very short; column off centred, bent at an angle from top of lemma. Fruits are deep reddish-brown to almost black, short lemma to 6.5 mm long, with a swollen asymmetric hump near the apex and a granular tuberculate surface lightly covered with white to golden hairs; coma to 2 mm long; callus short-hooked to 1.5 mm long; awn very short and twice bent to 50 mm long; column bent at an angle from the top of the lemma, (ecentric); palea glabrous, about equal to lemma. Seeds are yellow-brown fat grain to 3.5 mm long within the lemma. Seed embryo type is lateral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between November and March. Use your hands to gently strip the seeds (lemma) off the mature fruiting spike, those that are turning 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.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
BGA1,850 (13.33 g)50+25-Nov-2010DJD2056
2,100 (9.08 g)
2,100 (9.08 g)
Southern Lofty
Location: BGA — the seeds are stored at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, MSB — the seeds are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, England.
Number of plants: This is the number of plants from which the seeds were collected.
Collection location: The Herbarium of South Australia's region name.
% Viability: Percentage of filled healthy seeds determined by a cut test or x-ray.