Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa exilis
Heath Spear-grass
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
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Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 4.


Austrostipa from the Latin 'auster' meaning south and the genus Stipa, referring to the genus being allied to Stipa but restricted to Australia. Exilis from Latin meaning small or thin, referring to its slender culms.

Distribution and status

Found in the southern part of South Australia growing in mallee, open forest and woodland. Also found in Western Australia and Victoria. Native. Common in South Australia. Rare in Victoria. Common in Western Australia.
Herbarium regions: Eastern, Eyre Peninsula, Northern Lofty, Murray, Yorke Peninsula, Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tufted perennial grass to 0.6 m high, with fine culms (less than 1.5 mm diameter at base) and finely pubescent nodes. Leaves pubescent with blade tightly involute to 200 mm long and 0.5 mm diameter, drooping (flexuose). Inflorescence a sparse slender panicle to 20 cm long, with purplish glumes to 11 mm long, the lower glume longer by 2-4 mm than the upper glume. Flowering between September and January.

Key to this species: awn twice bent with coma; panicle contracted with short open branches; glumes narrow straight; culm slender (<1.5 mm diameter); leaves fine drooping, with long hair; lower glume (8-12 mm). Fruits are dark-brown to black lemma to 6 mm long with minutely granular surface texture and covered with semi-appressed apricot-coloured hairs; coma erect with hairs no longer than those of the body of the lemma; callus long straight to 1.5 mm long; awn twice bent to 55 mm long; column shortly pubescent or scabrid; palea slightly shorter than lemma, with silky-hair along the centre line. Seeds are yellow-brown narrow-ovoid grain to 5 mm long within the lemma. Seed embryo type is lateral.

Seed collection and propagation

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