Weed Identification

Australia > > Mission Grass

Mission Grass

Pennisetum polystachion

Family: Poaceae.

Form: Grass

Origin: Native of tropical Africa.

Flowers/Seedhead: Spikelets solitary, to 4.5 mm long. Flowers summer to early winter.

Description: Tufted, annual or perennial grass to 3 m high. Leaf blade to 45 cm long and to 1.8 cm wide; base of leaf blade with a ring of short hairs (ligule) to 2 mm long.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by seedheads to 1.52 cm wide and to 25 (rarely to 35) cm long, cylindrical, compact, light brown; spikelets surrounded by numerous bristles to 2.5 cm long and hairy in the lower part, upper glume as long as the spikelets, and lower glume absent or obscure.

Dispersal: Spread by seed.

Confused With: Similar to 2 subspecies of Pennisetum pedicellatum: subspecies unispiculum and subspecies pedicellatum, the latter being more common in the NT.

Seedheads of Pennisetum polystachion (left) Pennisetum pedicellatum (right)

Notes: Introduced as a pasture species. Rarely establishes outside the tropics. Encouraged by repeated burning. Fuel load from this species is often 35 times that of neighbouring areas free of Mission Grass or Gamba Grass, Andropogon gayanus. This fuel load results in more intense fires than previously and this has a detrimental impact on other native species as well as on property and horticulture.


    Noxious Weeds of Australia. W. Parsons and E. Cuthbertson, 1992, pages 119121. Weeds of Natural Ecosystems: a field guide to environmental weeds of the Northern Territory. N. Smith, 1995, NTEnvironment Centre, page 59.

Dense stands exclude other grasses

This weed has been included in the WEEDeck field guide as card G07

More information about WEEDeck is available from Sainty & Associates Pty. Ltd.


Australia > > Mission Grass


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