Friday, November 12, 2010

Plains Grass

Austrostipa aristiglumis
We don't often see native grasslands these days. This one is composed largely of Plains Grass, which was once a dominant grassland type on the Darling Downs. It is on private property near Mt Tyson.
Although this is potentially very good grazing land, the ungrazed paddock has been retained by the farm's owners because of its value as habitat for wildlife - particularly the rare grassland earless dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla).
I imagine there are other reptiles which would also like living here - which made me feel quite cautious about tramping into this situation!

Preservation of the grassland will provide habitat for numerous other wildlife species, including mammals and birds, which appreciate the feast of plump seeds on these pretty heads.
Seed of plains grass (also called "plump speargrass") is available commercially, as it is also appreciated by landscape gardeners. A patch of them, besides being attractive, would add value to any wildlife-friendly garden - particularly one on black soil. A densely planted stand will exclude most weeds.

Plains grass self-seeds readily. Its interesting seeds are “self-planting” having awns (the little whiskers on their ends) which twist more or less according to the humidity, and, with a little help from the wind, make the seeds burrow into the ground. However it is unlikely ever to become a weedy nuisance, as it is shallow-rooted and easy to uproot by hand. It is also killed by lawnmowing, so can easily be confined to a designated garden plot.
This is a drought and frost hardy plant, which prefers to grow in full sun.

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