Ehrharta calycina (perennial veldtgrass)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Ehrharta calycina Sm., 1790
Preferred Common Name
- perennial veldtgrass
Other Scientific Names
- Aira capensis L.f.
- Ehrharta ascendens Schrad.
- Ehrharta auriculata Steud.
- Ehrharta geniculata (Thunb.) Thunb.
- Melica festucoides Licht ex Trin.
- Trochera calycina Sm. P. Beauv.
International Common Names
- English: African veldt grass; perennial veldt grass; purple veldt grass; veldt grass
- French: ehrharta
Local Common Names
- Italy: ehrharta
- South Africa: polgras; pypgras; rooisaadgras
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Ehrharta calycina, or perennial veldt grass, is native to southern Africa and has been introduced to several countries around the world. It commonly invades disturbed ecosystems but is also able to penetrate into closed vegetation, such as heathland, woodland and forests, after natural disturbances have occurred. It represents a major threat to native Banksia woodlands on sandy soils in Western Australia. In California, it spreads into native shrub communities and its invasion causes a rapid shift towards species-poor grassland. It is also considered as a major threat to sand dunes and their vegetation on California's central coast. Once established, it inhibits or prevents germination and establishment of native forbs and woody species. Large stretches of the species increase fire frequencies, because stems and leaves dry out during the summer months, providing excellent fuel. Fire promotes spread of this grass by reducing regrowth or establishment of native species and drastically increasing cover of E. calycina.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Ehrharta
- Species: Ehrharta calycina
DescriptionTop of page
E. calycina is a tussock-forming grass 30-75 cm in height with flat, green to reddish-purple leaf blades 7-20 cm in length and 2-7 mm in width. A single tussock may consist of numerous stems. The inflorescence is a 10-15 cm long contracted to open panicle, with spikelets almost sessile or shortly stalked and 5-8 mm long. Glumes are 5-7 mm long, becoming purplish. A single spikelet contains three florets; the lower two are sterile and have no palea, and the upper is fertile with palea. Lemmas of sterile florets are membranous, short-awned or pointed and soft-hairy. Lemmas of fertile florets have hairy veins but no awns (Bossard et al., 2000).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
E. calycina is native to southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho), and has been introduced to several countries around the world: the USA (Texas, California and Hawaii), Tunisia, Uruguay, Spain, Portugal, India, Australia and New Zealand. In California, it is mostly confined to places near the coast in the southern part of the state; it is reported from 17 counties (Calflora, 2013). In Australia, it is found in Western Australia, with most records in the Perth area (Western Australian Herbarium, 2012), and also in four other states (Blood, 2001).
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: 12 May 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|South Africa||Present||Native||2-2500 m altitude; in Cape Province, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal|
|Portugal||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||One record from 1983|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New South Wales||Present, Localized||Introduced|
|-South Australia||Present, Localized||Introduced|
|-Western Australia||Present, Localized||Introduced|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
The earliest records of E. calycina in Australia date back to 1899 (Rod Randall, Government of Western Australia, Dept of Agriculture and Food, Forrestfield, Western Australia, Australia, personal communication, 2013). The grass was introduced as a pasture species and a soil binder (Alexander et al., 1921), but probably arrived earlier as a contaminant from South Africa in feed or fodder (Randall, personal communication, 2013).
In California, E. calycina was imported as seed from Australia and first reported in 1929 (Love, 1948a). It was promoted for forage improvement and erosion control during the 1950s and 1960s (Bossard et al., 2000), and extensively sown to stabilize sand dunes at Air Force Bases (Bossard et al., 2000).
IntroductionsTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
The risk of accidental introduction is high; see the ‘Means of Movement and Dispersal’ section for information on how the species is dispersed. Seeds are easily dispersed by wind and by human activities. Any disturbances leading to bare soil will promote spread of the species if plants are nearby. Deliberate introductions to new countries and its subsequent use in agriculture pose a significant risk as it readily becomes naturalized and may spread beyond the points of introduction.
HabitatTop of page
E. calycina grows in a wide range of habitats, usually on deep sandy soils. In California, it is found in sand dunes, dune scrub, coastal sage scrub, coastal grasslands, maritime chaparral, and oak woodlands (Hickman, 1993; Bossard et al., 2000). In Australia, it grows in disturbed sites such as road sides, in heathland, in Banksia woodlands (Fisher et al., 2006) and in blue gum woodlands (Vidler, 2003).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Chromosome counts include 2n=12 and 2n=24 according to Spies et al. (1989) and Spies et al. (2002). Love (1948b) reported chromosome counts of 2n=24, 2n=25, 2n=26, 2n=27 and 2n=28, using a strain that was sent to him from Australia.
E. calycina reproduces mainly by seed. Occasionally it is rhizomatous and may spread by rhizome pieces. Seeds are abundantly produced and primarily dispersed by wind (Bossard et al., 2000; Wittkuhn 2010). They do not self-bury and generally lie on the surface or in the top 1-2 cm of the soil (Smith et al., 1999).
Physiology and Phenology
In California, seeds of E. calycina germinate following winter rains. It grows and flowers throughout the rainy season (December to April), and into early summer in coastal areas with fog drip (Bossard et al. 2000). Most fruits mature between March and June in California. Root growth is rapid and extensive after rains. According to Bossard et al. (2000) flowering may occur for up to 25 weeks. In Australia, the species flowers from March to April or August to September (Western Australian Herbarium, 2012).
In Australia, germination occurs under a wide range of temperature and light conditions (Smith et al., 1999). No differences in germination rates were found between seeds in the dark or in full white light, nor between seeds exposed to 13° C and 28° C (Smith et al., 1999). Seeds withstood exposure to 70° or 80° C for 60 minutes without losing viability, but an exposure of 20 minutes to 90° C killed them.
Cramer et al. (2008) collected seeds from nine sites across a rainfall gradient in South Africa and grew the plants in a glasshouse. These native populations of E.calycina differed in traits such as photosynthetic rate, stomatal conductance, shoot moisture, relative growth rate, and a number of other traits. Photosynthesis ranged from 16-21 μmol m-2 s-1, stomatal conductance from 0.29-0.50 mol m-2 s-1, transpiration from 6.0-9.8 mmol m-2 s-1, and relative growth rate from 45-69 mg g-1 d-1.
Average leaf nitrogen content from three sites in Australia ranged from 28.9-33.9 mg g-1 (Fisher et al., 2006).
E. calycina is perennial and occasionally rhizomatous. It has dormant buds at its base from which it can resprout after damage.
Population Size and Structure
E. calycina grows in dense tufts. In moist areas it is capable of forming a continuous turf, with plants spreading vegetatively and by seed. It has shown to accumulate persistent seedbanks (Pierce & Cowling, 1991). In Australian woodland invaded by the species, recently burned areas contained up to 75,000 seeds per square metre (Smith et al., 1999). Only about half of the soil seed bank germinates after fire, ensuring the potential for later recruitment (Smith et al., 1999). These authors found that 16-month-old seed germinated at a rate of 96%.
E. calycina is resistant to drought and moderate frost (Western Australian Herbarium, 2012). It does not tolerate waterlogging, oxygen-poor soil conditions or high salinity levels (Western Australian Herbarium, 2012).
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Preferred||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|BW - Desert climate||Preferred||< 430mm annual precipitation|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||250||750||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Pascoe et al. (2005) reported the smut fungus Tilletiaehrhartae on E. calycina in Australia.
Herbivory by jackrabbits (Lepuscalifornicus) is widespread in coastal California, and reduces the number of shoots and biomass of the grass compared to sites from which jackrabbits have been excluded (Cushman et al., 2011).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
Seeds are dispersed primarily by wind (Wittkuhn, 2010).
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Birds and mammals may disperse seeds of E. calycina if they become attached to feathers or fur (Frey, 2005).
Seeds and pieces of tufts may be dispersed along roads and highways by agricultural machinery, mowers, and vehicles.
E. calycina is considered as a highly palatable and drought resistant grass, adapted to light soils. It has proved useful for range reseeding and is listed in the Crop Index of the Center for New Crops & Plant Products (Crop Index, 2013).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
E. calycina affects other species directly by crowding them out and indirectly through habitat alterations. It reaches high abundances and forms dense stands that tolerate only a few native species, resulting in a significant reduction of local plant and invertebrate diversity. Successful invasions cause a rapid shift toward grassland in California (Bossard et al., 2000).
Many Australian Banksia woodland remnants are heavily invaded by E.calycina (Fisher et al., 2006), a result of nutrient inputs and altered fire regimes by humans. In southwest Western Australia, invasion by the species initiates a grass-fire cycle, where fire promotes the grass and the grass fuel promotes fires (Baird, 1977). Regrowth and establishment of native species is prevented in areas where E.calycina has reached high abundances (Milberg and Lamont, 1995). It is a threat to blue gum woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus leucoxylon, because it displaces understorey plants such as the metallic sun orchid (Thelymitraepipactoides) (Vidler, 2003).
In southern Africa, E.calycina becomes abundant in areas cleared of Acaciasaligna (Yelenik et al., 2004), a nitrogen-fixing Australian tree that invades the species-rich fynbos -- the increased nitrogen content of the soil leads to secondary invasions by weedy natives such as E.calycina.
Increased fire frequencies threaten the reproductive biology of an endemic shrub, Arctostaphylosmorroensis, in California (Odion and Tyler, 2002).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Arctostaphylos morroensis||National list(s)||California||Odion and Tyler (2002)|
|Thelymitra epipactoides||National list(s)||Australia||Competition - monopolizing resources||Vidler (2003)|
|Lupinus nipomensis (Nipomo Mesa lupine)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||California||Competition - strangling||D’Antonio and Vitousek (1992); Bossard et al. (2000); US Fish and Wildlife Service (2009)|
|Perognathus longimembris pacificus (Pacific pocket mouse)||USA ESA listing as endangered species||California||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010)|
|Nasturtium gambelii (Gambel's watercress)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||Guatemala; Mexico; California||Competition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shading; Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (1998)|
|Sibara filifolia (Santra Cruz Island Rockcress)||USA ESA listing as endangered species||California||Competition - monopolizing resources||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2006)|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Reproduces asexually
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of fire regime
- Modification of successional patterns
- Monoculture formation
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Competition - strangling
- Rapid growth
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
UsesTop of page
E.calycina is palatable and used as a forage grass and for revegetation of degraded soils. Crude protein contents range from 9–30%, metabolizable energy from 7.3–10.7 MJ, and dry matter digestibility from 50–72% (Moore et al., 2006). It is considered as useful for ranch reseeding (Crop Index, 2013), and has been used for erosion control (Bossard et al., 2000).
In South Australia, E.calycina is used to control the weed false caper (Euphorbiaterracina L.) in cultivated fields (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 2001).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Some other species of Ehrharta may be confused with E. calycina. Panic veldt grass (Ehrharta erecta) is 30-60 cm tall and has leaf blades 5-12 cm in length and 4-9 mm in width. Annual veldt grass (Ehrharta longiflora) is annual and has leaf blades up to 20 cm long and 10 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.
After mowing of E.calycina during flower anthesis, cut plants recovered to a large extent due to dormant buds (Van der Westhuizen and Joubert 1983). For small infestations, it is recommended to cut plants ensuring crown removal (Western Australian Herbarium, 2012).
Prescribed burning is not an appropriate control method for E.calycina, as studies have shown that fire increases abundance of this species (Milberg and Lamont, 1995; Bossard et al., 2000).
Spraying with herbicide before flowering results in high mortality, whereas spraying at flowering time kills the top parts of the plant but causes resprouting from dormant buds at the base (Dixon, 1999). Dixon et al. (2002) used grass-selective herbicides such as fluazifop-P, quizalofop-P and haloxyfop to control buffel grass (Cenchrusciliaris) in Australia but state that other similar grasses can be controlled in similar ways
In coastal California, glyphosate applied as a foliar spray at 2% concentration with added surfactant proved to be effective against E.calycina (Bossard et al., 2000). Although this non-selective herbicide is most appropriate for near-monospecific stands, careful treatment of single bunches with a backpack sprayer can reduce impacts on native species (Bossard et al., 2000).
Unplanned fires give the opportunity to spray regrowth and seedlings; the best time is within 4-6 weeks of germination (Western Australian Herbarium, 2012).
Control by Utilization
Moore et al. (2006) state that E.calycina in Australian pastures persists poorly under continuous grazing as it is selectively grazed. Similarly, Rossiter (1947) reports that it does not withstand continuous or even rotational grazing by sheep. Whether grazing is a feasible control method for E.calycina is not clear.
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Little is known about the ecology and ecological impacts of E.calycina in Australia. Case studies are badly needed.
ReferencesTop of page
Alexander WB, Lane-Poole CE, Herbert DH, 1921. Lists of the principal indigenous West Australian plants of economic importance and of naturalised aliens and weeds established in the state, with their vernacular name. Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 6:41-46.
Bossard CC, Randall JM, Hoshovsky MC, 2000. Invasive Plants of California's Wildlands. Berkeley, California, USA: University of California Press.
Bossard CC, Randall JM, Hoshovsky MC, 2000. Invasive plants of California’s wildlands. Los Angeles, USA: University of California Press, 164-170.
Calflora, 2013. Calflora: Information on wild California plants for conservation, education, and appreciation. http://www.calflora.org
Crop Index, 2013. Crop Index. West Lafayette, Indiana, USA: Center for New Crops & Plant Products, Purdue University. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/default.html
Curtis WM, Morris DI, 1994. The Student's Flora of Tasmania. Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: St. David's Park Publishing.
Cushman JH, Lortie CJ, Christian CE, 2011. Native herbivores and plant facilitation mediate the performance and distribution of an invasive exotic grass. Journal of Ecology (Oxford), 99(2):524-531. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2745
D’Antonio CM, Vitousek PM, 1992. Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle, and global change, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 2363-87.
Dixon IR, Dixon KW, Barrett M, 2002. Eradication of buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) on Airlie Island, Pilbara Coast, Western Australia. In: Turning the Tide: the Eradication of Invasive Species. Proceedings of the International Conference on eradication of island invasives [ed. by Veitch, C. R. \Clout, M. N.]. Gland\Cambridge, Switzerland\UK: IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group, 92-101.
Dixon R, 1999. Best management practices for the control of perennial veld grass Ehrharta calycina. In: Managing our bushland: Proceedings of a conference about the protection and management of urban bushland [ed. by Tullis, K. \McLean, K.]. West Perth, Western Australia, Australia: Urban Bushland Council W A Inc., 147-149.
Fisher JL, Veneklaas EJ, Lambers H, Loneragan WA, 2006. Enhanced soil and leaf nutrient status of a Western Australian Banksia woodland community invaded by Ehrharta calycina and Pelargonium capitatum. Plant and Soil, 284(1/2):253-264. http://springerlink.metapress.com/link.asp?id=100326
Frey M, 2005. Element Stewardship Abstract for Ehrharta spp. Thunb. Arlington, Virginia, USA: The Nature Conservancy. http://www.imapinvasives.org/GIST/ESA/esapages/ehrhcaly.html
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Pascoe IG, Priest MJ, Shivas RG, Cunnington JH, 2005. Ustilospores of Tilletia ehrhartae, a smut of Ehrharta calycina, are common contaminants of Australian wheat grain, and a potential source of confusion with Tilletia indica, the cause of Karnal bunt of wheat. Plant Pathology, 54(2):161-168. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/servlet/useragent?func=showIssues&code=ppa
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Jones SD, Wipff JK, Montgomery PM, 1997. Vascular plants of Texas: a comprehensive checklist including synonymy, bibliography, and index., Austin, Texas, USA: University of Texas Press.
Rosengurtt B, Maffei BA de, Artucio PI de, 1970. Uruguayan grasses. (Gramineas Uruguayas). In: Colección Ciencias, 5 Montevideo, Uruguay: Universidad de la Republica. 489 pp.
Seebens H, Blackburn T M, Dyer E E, Genovesi P, Hulme P E, Jeschke J M, Pagad S, Pyšek P, Winter M, Arianoutsou M, Bacher S, Blasius B, Brundu G, Capinha C, Celesti-Grapow L, Dawson W, Dullinger S, Fuentes N, Jäger H, Kartesz J, Kenis M, Kreft H, Kühn I, Lenzner B, Liebhold A, Mosena A (et al), 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. 8 (2), 14435. http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14435
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OrganizationsTop of page
USA: California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC), 1442-A Walnut Street, #462, Berkeley, California, CA 94709, http://www.cal-ipc.org/
ContributorsTop of page
14/03/13: Original text by:
Ewald Weber, Biodiversity Research, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 1, 14469, Potsdam, Germany.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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CABI Summary Records
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