Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from Southern Africa, Parramatta Grass (Sporobolus africanus) is a tough perennial tussock grass that grows to a height of 50–70 cm and reproduces from seed.
  • Occurs as a weed in moist areas such as degraded pasture, roadsides and waste areas.
  • Occurs in all states and territories of Australia especially in coastal areas.
  • Its presence can seriously reduce pasture production and is so tough it can loosen teeth of grazing animals.
  • When invading domestic and amenity lawns the tough leaves can impact machinery and the grass is not always cleanly cut.
  • It may be controlled by cultivation and the use of herbicides.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Parramatta Grass (Sporobolus africanus) is a course tough perennial tussock grass that grows to a height of 50–70 cm and reproduces from seed. The roots are fibrous. The stems are dark green, upright and slender, growing to 50 cm high. The leaves are very tough, smooth and glabrous, dark green, mostly occurring around the base, and are slender and stiff, to 20 cm long and 6 mm wide, with in-rolled margins. Leaves have a leaf-sheath rolled around the stem where the blade meets the stem. The ligule is a ciliate rim with hairs to 0.5 mm long, at the junction of the leaf blade and the leaf sheath meet on the stem. The ligule can be located by tracing a leaf down to where it joins the sheath and bending the leaf back at this point.

The inflorescence or flower-head is a slender, dense, spike-like panicle, to 20 cm long and to and 7 mm diameter, slatey-green colour to grey, up to 20 cm long and 7 mm diameter, and resembles a rat's tail. The flower-head has many overlapping branches tightly packed against the main stem but sometimes interrupted near the base to expose the stem. Individual clusters of flowers (spikelets) each have one floral arrangement (floret) which is about 2.5 mm long, with unequal outer bracts (glumes), and are closely arranged along the branches. Contained within the glumes is a lemma which becomes the husk of the seed..  

The seeds are about 1.2 mm long and brown. The lemma bluntly pointed, membranous, shining (VicFlora 2016; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

For further information and assistance with identification of Parramatta Grass contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

Green, Grey

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Parramatta Grass mostly grows in temperate areas with a moderate to high rainfall (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). It favours sites with compacted soil, such as road verges and tracks, but will also invade pasture and sandy coastal sites, especially those sites receiving water run-off (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Are there similar species?

Giant Parramatta Grass (Sporobolus fertilis) is a very similar, but larger, version of Parramatta Grass, reaching 1.6 m high, with a seed head up to 45 cm long. Its lower branches are much longer (8–11 cm) than those of Parramatta Grass and may hang away from the stem at maturity and they grow in similar areas. It is a common pasture weed on the New South Wales north coast, where it is particularly invasive in wet areas.

Two native rat's tail grasses (S. elongatus and S. creber) are also common in eastern Australia. They have more interrupted seed heads than Parramatta Grass with the stem visible between the branches, at least in the lower part of the head. The length of the lower branches in these two species is only 5 cm or less. Distinguishing between native and introduced Sporobolus species can be difficult and expert assistance may be needed.

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

A weed of lawns, footpaths, parks, roadsides, disturbed sites, waste areas, swamps, grasslands, open woodlands and pastures in temperate, sub-tropical and occasionally also tropical regions. It is particularly common in areas with compacted soils.

Agriculture: Parramatta Grass has very low feed value, and being very tough, mature leaf blades are tough and difficult for cattle to graze and can loosen the teeth of stock feeding on it. (Queensland Government 2016). It invades pastures and replaces (out-competes) productive grasses and is known to dominate in wet, swampy areas (Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries, Queensland 2007) and replaces more productive types of grass, especially after overgrazing or soil disturbance and causes loss in carrying capacity and decreased production by up to 80% (Queensland Government 2016).

Native ecosystems: reported as a weed of some open degraded natural environments and known to dominate in wet, swampy areas and displace other native grass species.

Urban environments: It causes structural problems when growing on road verges where it can break through asphalt (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How does it spread?

Parramatta Grass reproduces and expands its dominance by seed (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Seeds can be spread in soil on machinery and vehicles. Although it has no awn or hairs, it becomes sticky when wet, and can adhere to animals and clothing. Seed production can be in the order of 300 seeds per head with over two million seed heads per hectare recorded (60,000 seeds per square metre). Soil seed banks have been estimated at 600-4,000 seeds per square metre. Estimates of the time it would take the seed-bank to decline to 1% of the initial viable seed are in the order of 10 years (Moerker 2001), however much of the seed appears to be dormant or non-viable (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

Parramatta Grass is thought to have arrived in Australia in the early 1800s. Its name refers to its first prominent establishment near Parramatta in western Sydney (Moerker 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: Parramatta Grass can be controlled by hand pulling small plants (bagging the seed head first to prevent seed dispersal), and slashing larger plants before spraying with herbicide (Brown & Brooks 2002).

Chemical control: Numerous herbicides are effective if applied at the active growing phase.

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au

The Sporobolus best practice manual, which includes principles of management and control as they apply to weedy Sporobolus grasses is available at https://futurebeef.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Weedy_sporobolus_manual.pdf 

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Parramatta Grass seeds germinate in spring. The young seedlings develop rapidly and produce flowering stems in mid to late-summer. Established plants grow rapidly from the crown during the warmer months but growth slows in late autumn. Growth may continue over winter in warmer areas, otherwise it ceases and aerial growth dies back (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?

Found in all Australian states and territories.

What areas within states and territories is it found?

Parramatta Grass occurs in all states and territories of Australia. 

It is present in New South Wales mainly on coastal soils the length of the coast but also on the Tablelands and with scattered colonies on the South Western Plains. 

In Victoria, it is present in East Gippsland, central and western districts, southern Wimmera and irrigated pastures along the Murray River and around Melbourne. 

It is present in temperate south-eastern South Australia, around Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills, the  length of the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide, along the Murray River corridor, and along the main roadside in the the Coorong to the Lower South-East in and around  towns and roadsides but especially in near coastal agricultural areas. 

In Tasmania it is present along the north and east coast especially by roads side and modified areas. 

Small colonies occur in Queensland, mainly in the south-east, and in Western Australia in the south west from Perth to Albany. 

A few scattered records from the Northern Territory are mostly from urban areas (AVH 2021; Moerker 2001; Western Australian Herbarium 2007).

Where does it originate?

Parramatta Grass is native to southern Africa (Simon 2005) and has been introduced to North and South America, southern Asia, Indonesia, many South Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?

Not declared in any states or territories. 

Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Sporobolus africanus

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Agrostis africana Poir.
  • Agrostis capensis Willd.
  • Agrostis spicata Thunb.
  • Sporobolus capensis (Willd.) Kunth
  • Sporobolus indicus var. africanus (Poir.) Jovet & Guedes
  • Sporobolus indicus var. capensis (Willd.) Engl.
  • Vilfa africana (Poir.) P.Beauv.
  • Vilfa capensis P.Beauv.
  • Sporobolus elongatus R.Br. (misapplied by Moore, C. 1869, Journal of Botany, British and Foreign. 7: 302.; Mueller, F.J.H. von 1875, Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae. 9(75): 78.)
  • Sporobolus indicus (L.) R.Br. (misapplied by Oliver, W.R.B. 1917, The vegetation and flora of Lord Howe Island. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. 49: 111, 157.; Laing, R.M. 1915, Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. 47: 16.; Bentham, G. 1878, Flora Australiensis. 7: 622.)

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Rat's Tail, Tufty Grass, African Dropseed Grass, Indian Rat's Tail Grass, Tussock Grass

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