African feather grass
Pennisetum macrourum Trin.
Vascular – Exotic
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.
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.
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.
trop. & Sthern Africa
Reason for introduction
Established plants are tolerant to drought.
cenchrus: From the Greek cenchros which means millet
National Pest Plant Accord species
This plant is listed in the 2020 National Pest Plant Accord. The National Pest Plant Accord (NPPA) is an agreement to prevent the sale and/or distribution of specified pest plants where either formal or casual horticultural trade is the most significant way of spreading the plant in New Zealand. For up to date information and an electronic copy of the 2020 Pest Plant Accord manual (including plant information and images) visit the MPI website.