|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.
|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
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.
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.