Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa densiflora
Dense Spear-grass
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Austrostipa from the Latin 'auster' meaning south and the genus Stipa, referring to the genus being allied to Stipa but restricted to Australia. Densiflora from the Latin 'densus' meaning dense and 'florus' meaning flower, referring to its congested inflorescences.

Distribution and status

Found in the Flinders Ranges, southern Mount Lofty Ranges and Kangaroo Island, growing in rocky site on sandy, shallow rock or low-fertility soils. Also found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Native. Rare in South Australia. Rare in Queensland. Common in the other states.
Herbarium regions: Flinders Ranges, Murray, Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Kangaroo Island, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Arid Lands, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tufted perennial grass to 1.5 m with culms unbranched and nodes densely hair. Leaves hairy above, inrolled to flat, to 45 cm long and 5 mm wide, with a dense hairy ear-shaped lobe at the base. Inflorescence a compact and dense panicle to 30 cm long with pubescent, purplish or green glumes. Flowering between October and January.

Key to this species: awn twice bent with no coma (no hairs around the lemma apex); lemma short stout (5-7.5 mm) with brown tuberculate surface; column hairs long pubescent and not confined to the nerve (0.5-1 mm); glume pubescent; callus short 1.2-1.8 mm; awn short 35-45 mm; panicle dense compact; sheath stout base densely pubescent 1.5-8 mm; leaves hairy above, long to 45 cm with dense hairy auricles; rocky sites. Fruits are brown narrow ellipsoid lemma to 7.5 mm long with a tuberculate surface covered in white or golden hairs but lacking in the apex area; callus straight, sharp and short to 1.8 mm long; awn twice bent, short to 45 mm long; column plumose with hairs to 1 mm long; palea about equal to lemma, with a line of hairs down the centre. Seeds are yellow-brown fat grain to 3 mm long within the lemma. Seed embryo type is lateral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between October and March. 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.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
BGA15,600 (40.56 g)5014-Oct-2007RJB75491
Northern Lofty
19-Sep-200855%+5°C, -18°C
BGA1,000 (3.95 g)50+18-Jan-2011TST1130
Southern Lofty
BGA11,100 (47.24 g)1006-Nov-2017JRG613
30-Jun-201860%-18°C, -80°C
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.