Spear Grass

Spear grass

Scientific name Austrostipa spp.
Common name(s) Spear grass
Synonym(s) Stipa spp. Varieties Foxtail spear grass (Austrostipa densiflora)
Rough spear grass (Austrostipa scabra)
Tall spear grass or Plains Spear grass (Austrostipa bigeniculata)

Spear grasses are cool season tufted perennial grasses. The foliage grows from 10 to 30 cm high with stems reaching from 0.5 to 1.5 metres depending on the species. Most species flower in spring, while some flower from late winter to early summer. Flowerheads vary between the species. Most have attractive feathery panicles which vary in length and breadth. The seeds are often sharp with long awns which are usually twisted.
Foxtail Spear grass grows to 20 cm high with stems up to 1 metre. It has an attractive dense compact panicle.
Rough spear grass grows to 15 cm with stems reaching up to half a metre. It has an open panicle with many flowers and a purple colouration
Tall spear grass grows to 20 cm with stems from 30 cm to 1.2 metres tall. It has an open panicle up to 45 cm long. The awns on the seeds are distinctly bent in two places.

Soils Spear grasses grow on a wide range of soil types. They will grow on poor soils as well as soils with high acidity.
Foxtail Spear grass grows on all types of soil as long as there is adequate drainage.
Rough spear grass prefers well drained soils.
Tall spear grass prefers loam soils of moderate to low pH.
Tolerance High drought tolerance
High tolerance to poor soils
High heat tolerance

Sow the seeds 5-10 mm below the soil surface when moisture is available. Spear grass is best sown in autumn or winter. In the cooler months, germination can take from 6– to 8 weeks, but in the warmer months it may be 7– to 10 days. Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged for three weeks after sowing. Seed can be sown with or without awns. Seed sown with awns is able to move when watered and to find a niche for its own burial. It is however, much more difficult to sow and usually requires hand sowing. Seed without awns is easier to sow, but requires sowing into a groove or shallow trench.

Sowing rate Foxtail spear grass: Sow seed at a rate of 2 – 4 kg per hectare
Rough spear grass: Sow seed at a rate of 2 – 4 kg per hectare
Tall spear grass: Sow seed at a rate of 2 – 4 kg per hectare
Uses Landscaping
Rough spear grass (Austrostipa scabra) is good for Horse pasture but grazing should be done after seeds have dropped as the seeds are fairly sharp.
Buy Spear Grass seed
Distribution map of fox tail spear grass

Spear Grass Distribution
Spear grasses are found in all states of Australia, but predominantly in the southern half of the continent. Spear grasses grow in association with dry eucalpyt forest, woodlands, shrublands, in low open forests, grasslands and along coastlines. These grasses often occur in shallow soils of low fertility in areas of high summer temperatures. They are able to survive and remain green even under dry, hot summer conditions.

Foxtail Spear grass

Horses on Australian native grass pasture
Horses on Australian native grass pasture

Rough Spear grass (Austrostipa scabra) for horse pasture

Horses grazing on Australian native rough spear grass (Austrostipa scabra)