Densely caespitose perennial (often purple near base), grass-like or herb, 0.3-1.2 m high. Fl. purple/green, Aug or Nov to Dec or Jan to May. Variety of soils. Disturbed sites.
General Biology. Growth form. Grass. Life form. Perennial. Reproduction. Seeds. Dispersal. Water, wind, mammals, slashing (particularly along roadsides), machinery, vehicles, soil, contaminated grain. Seedbank persistence. Possibly up to 5 years. Fire response. Often only top-killed by fire, rapidly resprouts.
Notes. African Lovegrass is a relatively large, densely tufted, and long-lived grass usually growing 30 to 120 cm tall. Its hairless stems are usually slender and upright, although they may sometimes be slightly drooping or weeping in nature when mature. The leaves consist of a leaf sheath, which partially encloses the stem, and a spreading leaf blade. Old leaf sheaths turn pale to yellowish and are retained. The leaves are densely tufted near the base of the plant and are often arched towards the ground, giving the plant a weeping appearance. The long and narrow leaf blades (5 to 35 cm long and 0.5 to 5 mm wide) gradually narrow to a pointed tip. Where the leaf sheath meets the leaf blade there is a line of tiny hairs (a ligule) 0.3 to 1 mm long. The leaf blades are roughly textured (scabrous) and often have their margins rolled inwards. The seed-head is a large open panicle (6 to 30 cm long and 4 to 20 cm wide) that is initially rather compact, but usually becomes loose and spreading as it matures. These seed-heads have many branches, several of which may spread from the same point at the base of the cluster. The numerous flower spikelets (4 to 10 mm long and 1 to 1.5 mm wide) are initially grey, greyish-green or purplish in colour, but become paler and turn straw-coloured as they mature. These flower spikelets are somewhat flattened, with a pair of bracts (glumes) at the base and several (4 to 13) tiny flowers (florets). When the flower spikelets are mature they break apart and release the seeds. The seeds are tiny (0.3 to 0.7 mm long), oval or almost round in shape, and can vary from whitish to yellow, orange, brownish or black in colour..
Additional information. Origin. Native to Southern Africa.. History of use/introduction. Accidentally introduced into Australia at some time prior to 1900, probably as a contaminant of pasture seed. However, since then other forms of this species have also been deliberately introduced to be used as pasture grasses or soil stabilisers..
Suggested method of management and control. African Lovegrass requires an integrated control approach as part of overall pasture management. Maintaining a healthy pasture will help to reduce the chances of African Lovegrass infestation, as it quickly establishes in bare areas. Effective control also largely depends on preventing seed spread to clean areas. African Lovegrass is palatable to livestock when young; however it quickly forms a tough tussock and sets seed. Therefore, heavy grazing of young African Lovegrass is recommended, as this is when it is the most palatable and nutritious to livestock. As cattle can spread viable seed, they should be prevented from grazing on African Lovegrass while it is in seed, or quarantined before moving them into clean paddocks. Re-sowing of desirable pastures species may be an option in heavily infested areas. Physical disturbance such as slashing and ploughing are not recommended, as they can promote seed spread and reinfestation. However, scattered African Lovegrass plants can be chipped out before they flower. When chipping out the plant, ensure that the entire tussock crown is removed, as this will prevent regrowth. Herbicides can be used as part of integrated management, but foliar application should only be conducted when the plant is green and actively growing. Residual herbicides are best applied from July to December, as this will prevent seed set in the following summer. Using fire as a management tool is not usually recommended for African Lovegrass, as it recovers faster than other species and its growth is usually enhanced following burning. However, applying herbicides or heavily grazing the fresh regrowth after a cool fire can help to reduce the large tussocks and encourage the diversification of better pasture species. Read the manufacturers' labels and material safety data sheets before using herbicides. For further information consult the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to determine the status of permits for your situation or state.
Legend: Y = Yes, regularly, O = Occasionally, U = Uncertain, referred by others but not confirmed.