barbed wire grass

Barbed Wire Grass

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Cymbopogon refractus

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Barbed Wire grass grows widely across eastern Australia with a higher occurrence along the coastal areas. It is sometimes found in drier inland locations on lighter soils and stony slopes. It has become naturalised on many Pacific islands.


A long-lived perennial with warm season growth. It is most notable for its seedheads which have a barbed-wire appearance, hence the name. The branches of the seedhead adopt obtuse and opposite angles and are quite distinctive. Plants are upright and non-spreading and reach from 1.2 to 1.5 m height under normal conditions. It is capable of living under very harsh conditions of drought as long as grazing is not continuous. The leaves emit a strong lemon scent when crushed.


It is able to grow on a wide range of soils from sand to loam to clay and is common on poor soils of low fertility. It is common in eucalyptus woodlands which receive infrequent grazing.


  • High drought tolerance
  • Low frost tolerance
  • Not tolerant of set stocking


Seed should be sown into a weed-free seedbed in early spring, or later with irrigation or summer rainfall. The seed is very small and is difficult to sow on its own. It should be sown blended with an inert carrier such as vermiculite. Seed should be surface sown and rubbed or rolled into the surface.


Barbed Wire grass provides valuable fodder on poor soils and will produce reasonable quantities as long as it is not grazed continuously. In some landscaping circumstances it can be considered as an alternative to Kangaroo grass as the seedheads are equally distinctive and the plants are similar in size and form.