Investigating native grasses

Dr Matt Appleby (Senior Ecologist)
Published 11 Feb 2021 
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Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra). By Cathy Zwick<br/> Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra). By Cathy Zwick
Bluegrass (Dicanthium species) by Cathy Zwick<br/> Bluegrass (Dicanthium species) by Cathy Zwick

Did you know there are hundreds of species of grass native to Australia?

Bounteous and beautiful, each of these native grass species plays a critical role in biodiversity.

They provide food for native birds which feast on their seed and use them as a source of nesting material during the breeding season.

They make excellent habitat for native skinks and other small lizards, small mammals and insects and tend to be resilient to the impacts of drought.

With this in mind, native grasses can be a wonderful addition to your own garden at home. Here’s a guide to a few common native grass species to consider.

Bluegrass (Dicanthium species)

Native bluegrass is a tufted perennial grass that needs no fertiliser, and has few major pests or diseases. It establishes easily and grows faster over the warmer months. Its leaves range in colour from green to bluish-purple, while its seedheads have a silky, hair-like appearance. King Bluegrass (Dichanthium queenslandicum) is a key species in our pioneering seed project at Carnarvon Station Reserve on Bidjara country in central Queensland. It grows up to 80cm in height, and is best planted late winter to late summer. It works well as a border plant, and is a great food source for some small native mammals and birds.

Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra)

Found on many of our reserves around the country, this species is suitable for a range of soils and grows best in full sun or partial shade. It's a tufted native grass that changes colour from green to reddish-purple in autumn to rusty orange in winter. Ideal for as an understorey for eucalypts, ornamental gardens or a mass planting with colourful native herbs.

Blue or Coastal Tussock (Poa poiformis)

This hardy coastal species grows well in loam or sandy soil, providing food and shelter for native birds, insects and lizards. Named for its bluish-green foliage, this native grass grows faster over the cooler months and flowers in summer. An ideal accent plant because of it tall, weeping form.

Recently, Bush Heritage distributed a leaflet to some of our supporters which promoted the sowing of native grasses.

By providing this information, we hoped our supporters would be inspired to consider ways to improve the biodiversity of their very own backyards.

The leaflet was designed with this small-scale usage in mind. Sometimes grasses native to one area in Australia are considered to be an invasive species in another part of the country, so it’s important to always check with your local Natural Resource Management organisation, your state’s Environment Department or local council when choosing native grasses to ensure they're suitable for your location.

Unfortunately, we did not include this message in the leaflet.

We apologise wholeheartedly for this error and we are very grateful to the knowledgeable supporters who brought it to our attention. There are so many native grasses to choose from that there's bound to be one (or more) that's suitable for your garden.

Happy planting!

Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra). By Cathy Zwick<br/> Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra). By Cathy Zwick
Bluegrass (Dicanthium species) by Cathy Zwick<br/> Bluegrass (Dicanthium species) by Cathy Zwick