Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa macalpinei
One-year Grass,
Annual Spear-grass
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Coober Pedy
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 4

Prior names

Stipa scelerata

Stipa lachnocolea

Stipa setacea var. latifolia

Stipa compressa var. lachnocolea

Stipa macalpinei

Common names

One-year Grass

Annual 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. Macalpinei name after Daniel McAlpine (1849-1932), a Scottish born Australian government vegetable pathologist and author of Plant Diseases in Australia.

Distribution and status

Found on the Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, southern Mount Lofty Ranges and the South-east in South Australia growing on sand and limestone in heathland, mallee and heathy woodlands. Also found in Western Australia and Victoria. Native. Uncommon in South Australia. Rare in Victoria. Common in Western Australia.
Herbarium regions: Eyre Peninsula, Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tufted perennial but often acts as an annual grass, appearing after fires; to 90 cm high, with erect unbranched culms with glabrous nodes, usually hidden by the sheaths. Leaf-blades flat to inrolled, to 20 cm long an 9 mm broad, pubescent; sheaths with dense hollow shining transparent flexuose hairs. Inflorescence a contracted dense panicle to 45 cm long, the base of the panicle often concealed by uppermost leaf-sheath; awns v long to 20cm; glumes to 23 mm long; light green, sometimes toothed just below apex, the lower up to 12 mm longer than upper. Flowering between October and January.

Key to this species: awn falcate (curved bristle at right angle to the column); lemma narrow and needle-like;, awn very long and straight 100-200 mm; sheaths with dense hollow shining transparent flexuose hairs; annual fire species. Fruits are straw-coloured linear-elliptic lemma to 8 mm long, with a smooth surface and covered in long white-straw coloured hairs; callus long to 3.5 mm; awn very long straight to 200 mm long. Seeds are yellow-brown narrow-ellipsoid grain to 3 mm long within the lemma. Seed embryo type is lateral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between December and February. Use your hands to gently strip the seeds (lemma) off the mature fruiting spike, those that are turning a straw colour. 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.