Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa scabra ssp. scabra
Rough Spear-grass
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Kath Alcock painting: 1

Prior names

Stipa variabilis, partly

Stipa scabra ssp. scabra

Common names

Rough 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. Scabra from the Latin 'scaber' meaning rough to the touch, scurfy, referring to its short stiff hairs or minute projections which are rough to the touch.

Distribution and status

Found across South Australia, except in the north-eastern part, growing in a wide range of habitats and soil types. Also found in all states. Native. Common in South Australia. Rare in Tasmania. Common in the other states.
Herbarium regions: North Western, Lake Eyre, Nullarbor, Gairdner-Torrens, Flinders Ranges, Eastern, Eyre Peninsula, Northern Lofty, Murray, Yorke Peninsula, Southern Lofty, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tufted perennial grass to 1 m high, with unbranched erect culms and glabrous nodes. Leaves smooth, scabrous or shortly pubescent with blade rolled to 20 cm long and 0.5 mm wide; lobe (ligule) at base of upper leaf blade to 4 mm; mouth of sheath (auricle) glabrous. Inflorescence a narrow dense panicle to 30 cm long, with spikelets ly appressed to stem; glumes to 15 mm long, usually purplish initially, soon becoming straw-coloured. This subspecies differs from the other subspecies found in South Australia, A. scabra ssp. falcata which has mouth of sheath hairy ( auricles); ligule to 1 mm long; leaf-blades less than 15 cm long; inflorescence sparse open or spreading, with spikelets somewhat spreading from stems. Flowers throughout the year depending on rain.

Key to this species: awn falcate (curved bristle at right angle to the column); lemma narrow and needle-like, mouth of sheath glabrous; ligule < 4 mm; leaves long >15 cm; panicle narrow appressed. Fruit pale-brown linear-elliptic lemma to 6.5 mm long, with a smooth surface and covered in white hairs; callus to 2 mm long; awn falcate to 70 mm long, with column scabrous or pubescent with banded black and yellow veins. 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 January and December. Use your hands to gently strip the seeds (lemma) off the mature fruiting spike, those that are turning 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 variable, depending on time of seed collections and seasonal conditions.