Briza maxima (large quaking grass)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Briza maxima L.
Preferred Common Name
- large quaking grass
Other Scientific Names
- Briza dalmatica Gand.
- Briza gracilescens Gand.
- Briza microclada Gand.
- Briza monspessulana Gouan
- Briza montana Brouss.
- Briza portenschlagii Gand.
- Briza pulchella Kunth
- Briza pulchella Kunth ex Steud.
- Briza rubens Poir.
- Briza rubra Lam.
- Macrobriza maxima (L.) Tzvelev
- Poa maxima (L.) Cav.
International Common Names
- English: big quaking grass; blowfly grass; fairy bells; giant shivery grass; great quaking grass; greater quaking grass; lady's heart grass; large fairy bells; quaking grass; quivering grass; shaky grass; shell grass
- Spanish: corazón de Jesús; ilusión de corazon grande; pastito de Dios; tembladera; templacera; templaderilla; templeque; zarcillitos
- French: grande brize
- Chinese: da ling feng cao
Local Common Names
- Germany: grosses Zittergras
- Italy: sonaghini
- Japan: kobanso
- Netherlands: groot siddergras; groot trilgras
- South Africa: Bewertjies
- Sweden: italienskt darrgräs
- USA: rattlesnake grass
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Briza maxima is an annual grass native to southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It has been introduced to many countries as an ornamental species (it is also of value as a pasture plant) and has become a common weed of waste places in, for example, Australia and parts of the USA; in Australia in particular it is reported as having a significant adverse impact on native species. It is also reported to affect native species and crops in Japan, and PIER (2014) indicates invasiveness in New Zealand, Hawaii, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras, although without going into detail of the adverse affects caused.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Briza
- Species: Briza maxima
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Briza comprises about 23 species (Clayton et al, 2013), native to Europe, North Africa, Asia, and South America (some species have been carried to and become naturalised in other countries).
Two species besides B. maxima have become naturalised and to some extent invasive in many of the same countries. These are the perennial B. media and the annual B. minor, both of which have spikelets similar in appearance to those of B. maxima although they are much smaller.
DescriptionTop of page
The following description is slightly modified from Clayton et al. (2013):
Habit: Annual; caespitose. Culms erect, or decumbent; 10–60 cm long. Ligule an eciliate membrane; 2–5 mm long. Leaf-blades 5–20 cm long; 3–8 mm wide. Leaf-blade margins scaberulous.
Inflorescence: Inflorescence a panicle; comprising 3–12 fertile spikelets. Panicle open; obovate; 3–10 cm long; bearing few spikelets. Spikelets pendulous; solitary. Fertile spikelets pedicelled. Pedicels filiform; recurved; 5–20 mm long.
Fertile Spikelets: Spikelets comprising 7–20 fertile florets; with diminished florets at the apex. Spikelets oblong, or ovate; laterally compressed; 14–25 mm long; 8–15 mm wide; breaking up at maturity; disarticulating below each fertile floret. Rhachilla internodes obscured by lemmas.
Glumes: Glumes persistent; similar; shorter than spikelet. Lower glume ovate; 5–7 mm long; 1 length of upper glume; chartaceous; without keels; 7–9 -veined. Lower glume apex obtuse. Upper glume ovate; 5–7 mm long; 0.75 length of adjacent fertile lemma; chartaceous; without keels; 7–9 -veined. Upper glume apex obtuse.
Florets: Fertile lemma orbicular; auriculate at base; gibbous; 6–8 mm long; chartaceous; much thinner on margins; keeled; lightly keeled; keeled below; 7–9 -veined. Lemma surface glabrous, or pubescent; with capitate hairs. Lemma apex cuspidate. Palea orbicular; 0.5 length of lemma; 2 -veined. Palea keels winged; narrowly winged; ciliate. Apical sterile florets resembling fertile though underdeveloped.
Flower: Lodicules 2. Anthers 3; 2–2.5 mm long. Ovary glabrous.
Fruit: Caryopsis with adherent pericarp; 2.5 mm long. Embryo 0.25 length of caryopsis. Hilum linear; 0.5 length of caryopsis.
Plant TypeTop of page
Grass / sedge
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Zimbabwe||Present, Localized||Introduced||High rainfall parts of Zimbabwe (1600 - 1710 mm)|
|-Channel Islands||Present||Introduced||First recorded in the wild in 1863 (Jersey). Increasing.|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Hawai'i, Kaui'i and Maui islands|
|-Lord Howe Island||Present||Introduced||1947|
|-New South Wales||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||Eastern and southern parts|
|-Northern Territory||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||Southern parts|
|-Queensland||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||South-eastern and central parts|
|-South Australia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||In many parts|
|-Western Australia||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||South-western and western areas|
|Chile||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Mainland and Juan Fernandez islands|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
The species has been spread to many countries as a garden ornamental and its flowers have often been used in dried flower arrangements. It has escaped to become a common weed of waste places in, for example, Australia and parts of the USA (Cal-IPC, 2005; University of Queensland, 2013). Its seed is still widely available from sources advertised on the internet, especially in the USA and Britain.
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Australia||1848||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Yes||No||CHAH (2014); Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (2013)||Probably introduced from Europe. Mount Barker Bal, South Australia|
|Denmark||1881||Yes||No||NOBANIS (2013)||First record. 'Rare'|
|New Zealand||1864||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Yes||No||THOMSON (1922)||Probably introduced from Europe. ‘Two or three localities in the neighbourhood of Auckland’ by 1882.|
|UK||Europe||by 1633||Yes||No||Biological Records Centre (2013)|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Seed of B. maxima is readily available through the internet, and its spread is likely to continue for this reason. Like many garden plants, it probably goes in and out of favour with gardeners; University of Queensland (2013), for example, says ‘it is not very common in cultivation any more’.
HabitatTop of page
Weber (2003, quoted in PIER, 2014) describes the habitat of B. maxima as ‘Grass- and heathland, forests, riparian habitats, coastal beaches'. The same author goes on to say that its native habitats include hill slopes, coastal scrub and disturbed sites, and that ‘It forms dense, species-poor swards where invasive that impede the growth and regeneration of native plants.’
Sanz et al. (2011) describe the species as ‘one of the most characteristic species of the oligotrophic Mediterranean pastures’. In dry grassland in Italy (part of its native range), B. maxima occurs in communities on open xerophilous grasslands dominated by annual graminoids that develop on different substrata mainly in the coastal or subcoastal sectors of the peninsula (Burrascano et al. 2010). In Israel, again in its native range, it is found in Mediterranean woodlands and shrublands, in semi-steppe shrublands, and in the montane vegetation of Mt. Hermon (Danin, 2013).
Where it has been introduced in Australia, it can be weedy in many situations: gardens, footpaths, disturbed sites, waste areas, roadsides, railway lines, grasslands, heathlands, open forests, riparian habitats and coastal habitats in temperate, sub-tropical and semi-arid regions (University of Queensland, 2013).
In the USA, where again it is introduced, it is known from scattered locations and in Oregon and California it invades coastal dune habitats (Snow, 2007).
In New Zealand it is again an introduced species and there it occurs ‘often near the coast on roadsides and sandy or shingly waste land’ (Edgar and Connor, 2010). In Britain, to which it was introduced many years ago, it is now found on dry banks, rocky places and cultivated ground in the Channel Islands and elsewhere as an escape from cultivation (Hubbard, 1984); the Biological Records Centre (2013) lists its habitats as ‘on dry, bare banks and field margins, in cultivated ground including gardens, bulb-fields, on sand dunes, sea-cliffs, rubbish tips, waste ground and wall-tops, and in pavement cracks’.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
2n= 14 (Hubbard, 1984).
B. maxima reproduces entirely by seed. Cal-IPC (2005) says that dense infestations can produce over 1000 viable seeds m-2.
Murray (1974) lists B. maxima as self-compatible, so seeds can be produced by either self- or cross-pollination.
Physiology and Phenology
B. maxima is a ‘cool season’ C3 grass whose photosynthetic pathways initially produce 3-carbon molecules (Waller and Lewis, 1979).
Parker-Allie et al. (2009) modelled the effects of climate change on the distribution of grasses in South Africa and found that B. maxima was likely to reduce its range by about 20% by the middle of the present century.
Sanz et al. (2011) tested the effects of enhanced ozone atmospheric levels and nitrogen enrichment (both important components of climate change around the Mediterranean) on the growth and phenology of B. maxima and found that although increasing ozone levels did not affect biomass parameters, they enhanced senescence, increased foliar fibre levels and shortened plant life span (by about 18%). Application of nitrogen, as ammonium nitrate solution, led to increased biomass and improved nutritive value due to a decrease in foliar fibre concentration. Nitrogen counterbalanced the ozone-induced increase in senescent biomass but did not modify ozone effects on nutritive quality.
Plants of B. maxima will regrow after being cut or otherwise damaged (Cal-IPC, 2005).
Although the plants of B. maxima are annuals, emerging, fruiting and dying in less than a year, and most seeds germinate within a year or so, a few seeds (2.5% of those planted) can persist for about 3 years (Orscheg, 2002). Cal-IPC (2005) also reports that seeds can remain viable for 3 years or more.
Population Size and Structure
According to University of Queensland (2013)B. maxima can form dense swards of over 200 plants m-2. Most commonly, though, populations are less dense. Similarly, in California, Cal-IPC (2005) says ‘In some sites it can form dense, nearly pure stands, that displace other species, but this is unusual. Typically it is in a mixed community with other annual grasses and forbs.’
Cal-IPC (2005) also says of B. maxima, ‘Populations oscillate, but in general it does not expand much when in an area. Seems to be in most habitats that it can occupy. In the Bay Area, is locally spreading and is more abundant than it was years ago.’
Sanz et al. (2011) commented on the ‘characteristically low nutrient content’ of the soils of annual pastures on the Iberian Peninsula, and found that B. maxima responded strongly to nitrogen fertilisation.
In B. maxima’s native Italian dry grassland communities it is often found growing with Brachypodium distachyon (=Trachynia distachya), Hypochaeris achyrophorus, Stipa capensis, Tuberaria guttata, Trifolium scabrum, T. cherleri, and Saxifraga tridactylites (Burrascano et al. 2010).
In central California, Evens and Kentner (2006) noted that B. maxima is common in annual grass communities (with or without other non-native bromes like Bromus diandrus and Bromus hordeaceus), while other herbs such as Trifolium depauperatum, Lupinus species, Hypochaeris glabra and Iris macrosiphon are also present at low to abundant cover. It can occasionally form fairly pure stands, but this is unusual and it is commonly found in mixed communities with other grasses and forbs (Cal-IPC, 2005).
In Australia, too, B. maxima is often associated with other grass species (University of Queensland, 2013).
ClimateTop of page
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Ds - Continental climate with dry summer||Preferred||Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)|
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
Cal-IPC (2005) says that most seeds fall to the ground immediately beneath the plant. University of Queensland (2013) suggests that seeds can be dispersed by water or wind, or in mud attached to animals or vehicles.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Detrain and Pasteels (2000) found that the ant Messor barbarus sometimes favoured the seeds of B. maxima as a food source in south-east France, which means that ants may sometimes contribute to its spread but also reduce the amount of seed available for future germination and growth.
Accidental introduction to new countries would be relatively unlikely, with modern phytosanitary regulations. However, escape from garden plantings or when dried flower displays are discarded could still occur.
University of Queensland (2013) says that seeds may be spread by mowers or slashers (of roadside vegetation) and that distant dispersal could result from movement of agricultural products such as hay or other fodder.
B. maxima has already been introduced as an ornamental to many countries and this is likely to continue in countries where it has not yet naturalized, especially since its seeds are readily available through the internet.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
The species is palatable to livestock so where it occurs in grazed pasture it is probably as valuable as other annual grass species in the same community. Many garden seed companies advertise B. maxima seed on their websites, so trade in this species appears to be flourishing.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
Cal-IPC (2005) indicates that the overall effect of B. maxima in California is ‘Limited’. Like most other annual grasses it can increase fire risk.
In Australia, University of Queensland (2013) reports that it is a significant environmental weed in Victoria and Western Australia and an environmental weed in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. It invades grasslands, grassy woodlands, heathlands, granite outcrops, open forests, riparian habitats and coastal habitats. Its dense swards impede the growth and regeneration of native plants and significantly decrease species richness. In the southern parts of Western Australia it is listed as a weed of wetlands and aquatic habitats. It is also present in conservation areas (e.g. Gramatan Avenue Heathland Sanctuary in suburban Melbourne) and rehabilitation areas (e.g. in box-ironbark forests in the goldfields region) in Victoria.
Impact on Biodiversity
University of Queensland (2013) states that: ‘The remnant plant communities that are home to the threatened Eltham copper butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida [also known as Paralucia aenea ssp. lucida]), which is found only in a few sites in Victoria, are under threat by invasion from environmental weeds including this species. B. maxima is also one of the weeds competing with sweet bursaria (Bursaria spinosa), the native food plant of this rare butterfly. It also thought to be reducing regeneration of the threatened whipstick westringia (Westringia crassifolia) in Victoria.’ McMahon (1991) comments that ‘When B. maxima cover is >10% it can cause approx. 75% reduction in the richness of native vegetation in Victoria.’
In some areas of Japan, B. maxima competes with native plants (NIES, 2013).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Chorizanthe howellii||National list(s)||California||Competition - monopolizing resources||Cal-IPC (California Invasive Plant Council) (2005)|
|Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida||National list(s)||Victoria||University of Queensland (2013)|
|Westringia crassifolia||National list(s)||Victoria||Competition - monopolizing resources||University of Queensland (2013)|
|Platanthera yadonii (Yadon's piperia)||VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||California||Competition - monopolizing resources||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2009)|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Modification of fire regime
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
UsesTop of page
B. maxima is clearly of value in its native environment for grazing of cattle (Sanz et al., 2011). It also provides fodder for grazing animals where it has become naturalized in grazed grasslands in Australia and California. Many garden seed companies advertise B. maxima seed on their websites, so trade in this species, presumably for ornamental purposes, appears to be flourishing.
Reports from several countries about the use of B. maxima as an attractive ornamental grass both in gardens and in dried flower arrangements presumably mean that it has given pleasure to householders and gardeners over the years (Hubbard, 1984; PIER, 2014; University of Queensland, 2013).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Seed trade
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Other species of Briza are similar in general appearance to B. maxima, but those most likely to be encountered outside South America are B. minor and B. media, both of which have a larger number (more than 15) of spikelets in the seed head and much smaller spikelets (3-5 mm long) than B. maxima, which almost always has 12 or fewer shield-shaped spikelets, each 7-25 mm long and 6-15 mm wide.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Hand pulling of isolated plants before seed set and safe disposal of the removed material could be useful as a control measure in small new infestations (Western Australian Herbarium, 2013). Ploughing followed by oversowing of more desirable species may give longer-term control in denser infestations.
This is unlikely to be used, since many other more desirable grasses could also be adversely affected.
The Western Australian Herbarium (2013) suggest treating young plants at the 3-5 leaf stage with fluazifop -- this herbicide kills grasses but does not affect broadleaf plants. Other grass-killing herbicides like haloxyfop behave similarly. B. maxima is susceptible to broad spectrum herbicides like glyphosate, but it will recover from seeds buried in the soil. DiTomaso et al. (2013) also indicate susceptibility to clethodim, fluazifop, hexazinone, imazapic, imazapyr, sethoxydim and sulfometuron.
B.maxima is known to be eaten in South Africa by the rare geometric tortoise Psammobates geometricus (Balsamo et al., 2004). It is also readily eaten by cattle and sheep in pastures where it occurs.
ReferencesTop of page
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USDA-ARS, 2013. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx
USDA-NRCS, 2013. The PLANTS Database. Greensboro, North Carolina, USA: National Plant Data Team. https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov
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09/04/13: Original text by:
Ian Popay, consultant, New Zealand, with the support of Landcare Research.
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