Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa trichophylla
Fine-leaf Spear-grass
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Kath Alcock painting: 1

Prior names

Stipa trichophylla

Common names

Fine-leaf 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. Trichophylla from the Greek 'thrix' or 'trichos' meaning hair and 'phyllon' meaning a leaf, referring to its hair-like leaf-blades.

Distribution and status

Found in the north-western and south-eastern part of South Australia, growing on sandy soils associated with limestone in mallee, shrubland and open woodland. Also found in Western Australia, Northern Territory, New South Wales and Victoria. Native. Common in South Australia. Uncommon in the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Victoria. Common in Western Australia..
Herbarium regions: North Western, Lake Eyre, 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 50 cm high with erect unbranched culms and exserted, glabrous nodes but shortly pubescent immediately below. Leaf-blades fine, tightly inrolled to 20 cm long and 0.6 mm diameter, with dense long spreading hairs to 0.5 mm; leaves usually flexuose;. Inflorescence a sparse panicle to 20 cm long, with unequal glumes to 14 mm long. Flowering between September and November.

Key to this species: awn falcate (curved bristle at right angle to the column); lemma narrow and needle-like; column pubescent to 1 mm; glumes unequal; leaves fine 0.3-0.6 mm, inrolled with dense long spreading hairs 0.5 mm; leaves usually flexuose; sheaths 2-5 mm wide, pilose. Fruits are golden-brown linear-elliptic lemma 6.5 mm long wtih a granular to scabrous surface and covered in white hairs, sparse near apex; callus to 2.5 mm long; awn falcate to 60 mm long with column pubescent to 10 mm long. Seeds are yellow-brown narrow-ellipsoid grain to 3.5 mm long within the lemma. Seed embryo type is lateral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between October and December. 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 variable, depending on time of seed collections and seasonal conditions.