Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa oligostachya
Fine-head Spear-grass
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Prior names

Stipa oligostachya

Common names

Fine-head 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. Oligostachya from the Greek 'oligos' meaning few and 'stachys' meaning ear of maize, referring to its few branching inflorescence.

Distribution and status

Found in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges and the upper South-east in South Australia, growing in ephemerally wet areas, along river banks and loamy flats in grassy woodland and grassland. Also found in Victoria. Native. Very rare in South Australia. Common in Victoria.
Herbarium regions: Southern Lofty, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tufted perennial grass to 1 m high with culms unbranched and pubescent nodes. Leaves glabrous, scabrous or lightly pubescent, with purple sheath and blade usually involute, to 20 cm long and 1 mm diameter. Inflorescence an open panicle to 25 cm long, with strongly veined purple glumes to 18 mm long, the lower longer than upper. Flowering between September to December.

Key to this species: awn twice bent with no coma (no hairs around the lemma apex), lemma 7-9 mm with apex crystalline tuberculate; glumes strongly ridged; column 18-25 mm. Fruits are red-brown narrow-ellipsoid lemma to 9 mm long, with 1 or 2 short lobes at the narrow apex to 0.5 mm long; granular tuberculate surface with crystalline tuberculate near the apex and covered in yellow hairs at least in the lower part, with sparse hairs in the upper half; callus straight and sharp to 3 mm long; awn twice bent to 80 mm long with the column scabrous-pubescent or smooth to 25 mm long; palea about equal to lemma, glabrous or sparsely pubescent along the centre line. Seeds are yellow-brown narrow-ellipsoid grain to 6 mm long within the lemma. Seed embryo type is lateral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between October and February. 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 viable, depending on time of seed collections and seasonal conditions.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
1,950 (15.75 g)
1,950 (15.75 g)
Southern Lofty
1-Aug-200760%+5°C, -18°C
BGA8,000 (20.79 g)5026-Oct-2007RJB75078
Southern Lofty
19-Sep-200875%+5°C, -18°C
BGA1,800 (17.290 g)100+15-Dec-2021TST1484
Southern Lofty
BGA5,990 (30.450 g)50+14-Dec-2022BKB40
Southern Lofty
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.