Plants of
South Australia
Austrostipa setacea
Corkscrew Grass,
Corkscrew Spear-grass
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
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Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 5

Prior names

Stipa setacea var. latiglumis

Dichelachne setacea

Stipa brachystephana

Stipa setacea

Common names

Corkscrew Grass

Corkscrew 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. Setacea from the Latin 'seta' meaning bristle and the suffix '-aceus' meaning resemble, referring to its bristle-like leaf blades.

Distribution and status

Found in the southern part of South Australia south of the Gammon Ranges, growing in a wide variety of habitats including grassy woodland and grassland in dry rocky sites. Also found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Native. Common in South Australia. Common in the other states.
Herbarium regions: Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Northern Lofty, Murray, Southern Lofty, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tufted perennial grass to 0.8 m high with culms unbranched and nodes glabrous. Leaves smooth and glabrous to finely scabrous, with blade erect or flexuose, closely folded or inrolled appearing cylindrical to 30 cm long and 1 mm diameter; ligule glabrous to 9 mm long. Inflorescence a loosely open panicle to 20 cm long, with bulging straw-coloured glumes to 14 mm long, the nerves standing out as ridges. Flowering between August and November.

Key to this species: awn twice bent with coma; inflated glumes; short-hooked callus; lemma black with two distinct indentations in the neck below the column; palea with a deep groove down the middle; ligule long 2-9 mm. Fruits are stout black lemma to 7.5 mm long, strongly constricted near the apex with 2 distinct indentations in the neck of the lemma just below the column, a scabrous surface and covered in white hairs, except for a small bald patch below the apex; coma slightly spreading to 0.8 mm long, callus short- hooked to 1.5 mm long; awn twice bent to 40 mm long; palea about equal to lemma, with a deep groove down the midline; glabrous. Seeds are yellow-brown ellipsoid grain to 3.5 mm long within the lemma. Seed embryo type is lateral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between October and January. Use your hands to gently strip the seeds (lemma) off the mature fruiting spike, those that are turning whitish-black. 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.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
BGA2,000 (9.53 g)50+11-Nov-2010TST1096
BGA1,100 (4.26 g)50+17-Nov-2010DJD2028
South Eastern
BGA2,600 (7.980 g)3-Dec-2022DJD4137
Flinders Ranges
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.