Cenchrus macrourus


Cenchrus: From the Greek cenchros which means millet

Common Name(s)

African feather grass


Cenchrus macrourus (Trin.) Morrone



Flora Category

Vascular - Exotic

Structural Class



Pennisetum macrourum Trin.


Terrestrial. A plant that likes damp situations such as swamps and the borders of streams, but can also tolerate drought and establish on dry shady banks. A plant that prefers light sandy soil. In New Zealand this plant has shown no preference for soil types or locality. A plant that grows in pastures, roadsides, urban areas, wasteland and roadsides, swamps and streambanks. The plant has been found growing in grazing land, cemeteries and private sections and amenity areas.


Perennial, clump-forming grass to 2 m. Deep fibrous roots. Rhizomes 7 mm diam, up to 2 m long, form new aerial shoots and roots. Leaves light green, strongly ribbed, darker green underneath, 13 mm x 1.2 m, tough and harsh. Stems erect, round, up to 2 m tall, purplish-white; with many fine hairs which break off when touched, causing skin irritations. Flowerhead narrow, cylindrical, spike-like, 10-30 cm long, 10-20 mm diam; containing many seeds, each with 10 mm bristles.

Similar Taxa

African feather grass is easily identified by the 20-40 cm spike-like inflorescence on 2m tall clumps. P. Purpureum is a similar or even larger plant, but has panicles only to about 14 cm.

Year Naturalised



trop. & Sthern Africa

Reason For Introduction

Life Cycle Comments
Perennial. The seeds germinate in autumn (some in spring) forming large numbers of new plants. A young plant starts to develop at about 7 months and by 32 months can have produced a clump of new shoots up to 1.5 metres in diameter.

New colonies will arise from moved or broken rhizomes. A plant with a vigourous creeping root system. New roots and shoots develop from nodes on the rhizomes, which grow rapidly in spring and summer.

Large numbers of seeds are produced. A prolific seeder. 88% of the seeds are viable.

Barbed bristles on the seed husk assists dispersal of the seed, by wind and in animal hair. The seed is also dispersed by water. Wind dispersal is only local.

Established plants are tolerant to drought.

This page last updated on 25 Aug 2015