Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

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Sporobolus natalensis
(Steud.) T. Durand & Schinz, Poaceae
No images for this taxon

Present on Pacific Islands?  no

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Common name(s): [more details]

English: giant rat's tail grass

Habit:  grass

Description:  "Perennials, erect, caespitose.  Flowering culms 60-150 cm high.  Leaves: basal leaf sheath margins glabrous; ligule a ciliate membrane, to 0.4 mm long; blade flat or folded, linear, 25-50 cm long, 2-4 mm wide, with smooth margins.  Inflorescences paniculate, pyramidal, open to contracted and loosely spiciform, 20-30 cm long; primary branches solitary, equaling or longer than adjacent internodes, appressed, erect or spreading, spikelet-bearing throughout, with spikelets loosely spaced and fairly even.  Spikelets pedicellate, 1.6-2.3 mm long; pedicel 0.7-1.5 mm long.  Glumes: lower glume oblong, 0.5-0.8 mm long, obtuse, without nerves; upper glume lanceolate, at least half spikelet length, 0.8-1.3 mm long.  Lemma narrowly ovate, 1.6-2.3 mm long, acute, 1-nerved.  Plea subequal to lemma, entire.  Anthers 3, 0.8-1 mm long.  Grain elliptic or obovate, quadrangular, 0.7-0.8 mm long, to 0.6 mm wide, to 0.4 mm thick, reticulate, brown.  Embryo less than half as long as grain" (Mallett, 2005; pp. 336-337).

"Robust, tufted perennial grass in well-rooted tussocks to 1.7 m tall.  Spike-like seed heads to 40 cm long and 3 cm wide on slender stems giving a 'rat's tail' appearance.  Seed heads turn into an elongated pyramid shape when flowering.  Can flower and seed all year round in higher rainfall areas." (Smith, 2002; p. 77).

Description from GrassBase.

Habitat/ecology:  "Can grow on a wide range of soils. Particularly suited to coastal and sub-coastal regions prone to overgrazing or disturbance, e.g. cattle camps and roadsides" (Smith, 2002; p. 77).

Propagation:  "Mature seeds become sticky when damp and are dispersed when adhered to animal fur, clothes, vehicles and machinery.  Roadside slashing equipment seems to be responsible for much spread along roadsides in rural areas.  Also dispersed by water and as a contaminant of nay.  The thousands of seeds produced have a viability of up to 10 years.  Seeds rapidly, even if grazed or slashed."  (Smith, 2002; p. 77).

Native range:  Africa (Smith, 2002; p. 77).


Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Australia (continental)
Northern Territory introduced
Mallett, Katy, ed. (2005) (p. 337)
Australia (continental)
Queensland introduced
Mallett, Katy, ed. (2005) (p. 337)

Comments:  Possibly a hybrid between Sporobolus pyramidalis and Sporobolus africanus (Mallett, 2005; pp. 336-337).

Control:  If you know of control methods for Sporobolus natalensis, please let us know.

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This page was created on 10 APR 2005 and was last updated on 17 APR 2009.