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Datasheet

Microlaena stipoides
(meadow rice grass, meadow ricegrass)

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Datasheet

Microlaena stipoides (meadow rice grass, meadow ricegrass)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Microlaena stipoides
  • Preferred Common Name
  • meadow rice grass, meadow ricegrass
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. stipoides is a perennial grass native to Australia, New Zealand, Papau New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines, where it is used for fodder and as both a pasture and turf grass. It has been introduced into...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Microlaena stipoides; ligule area. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand. 28 August 2012
TitleLigule area
CaptionMicrolaena stipoides; ligule area. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand. 28 August 2012
Copyright©Colin C. Ogle
Microlaena stipoides; ligule area. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand. 28 August 2012
Ligule areaMicrolaena stipoides; ligule area. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand. 28 August 2012©Colin C. Ogle
Microlaena stipoides; ligule and auricles. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand. 28 August 2012
TitleLigule and auricles
CaptionMicrolaena stipoides; ligule and auricles. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand. 28 August 2012
Copyright©Colin C. Ogle
Microlaena stipoides; ligule and auricles. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand. 28 August 2012
Ligule and auriclesMicrolaena stipoides; ligule and auricles. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand. 28 August 2012©Colin C. Ogle
Microlaena stipoides; ligule area. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand.28 August 2012
TitleLigule area
CaptionMicrolaena stipoides; ligule area. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand.28 August 2012
Copyright©Colin C. Ogle
Microlaena stipoides; ligule area. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand.28 August 2012
Ligule areaMicrolaena stipoides; ligule area. Forres St., Wanganui, New Zealand.28 August 2012©Colin C. Ogle

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Microlaena stipoides (Labill.) R.Br. (1810)

Preferred Common Name

  • meadow rice grass, meadow ricegrass

Other Scientific Names

  • Ehrharta stipoides Labill. (1805)
  • Microlaena micranthera Ohwi
  • Microlaena stipoides var. breviseta
  • Microlaena stipoides var. micrantha Domin

International Common Names

  • English: meadow rice grass; meadow ricegrass; slender rice grass
  • French: faux-stipe; microléne

Local Common Names

  • Australia: weeping grass
  • New Zealand: paatiitii; patiti
  • UK: weeping rice grass
  • USA/Hawaii: pu'u-lehua

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. stipoides is a perennial grass native to Australia, New Zealand, Papau New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines, where it is used for fodder and as both a pasture and turf grass. It has been introduced into Hawaii and Réunion and has been reported as invasive on both (PIER, 2010). It is naturalized in Chile and is present with few occurrences in the UK and South Africa.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Poaceae
  •                             Genus: Microlaena
  •                                 Species: Microlaena stipoides

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The taxonomic placement of M. stipoides in Microlaena rather than Ehrharta is a recurring topic in the literature. Edgar and Connor (2010) separated the tribe Ehrharteae into the two genera on the basis of extravaginal branching and 2-4 stamens per flower in Microlaena, as opposed to the intravaginal branching and 6 stamens per flower in Ehrharta.

Martin (2004) commented that the generic name Microlaena is strongly defended by Australasian agrostologists (e.g. Wheeler et al., 2008; Edgar and Connor, 2010), but that many European and American authors treat it as part of the genus Ehrharta, so that information on the species in question can also be found under the name Ehrharta stipoides Labill., including in Kew’s The Plant List (2010) and Clayton and Renvoize (1986). M. stipoides is also preferred by New Zealand botanists (Edgar and Connor, 2010; NZPCN, 2012).

The Australian Plant Name Index (APNI, 2012) has a comprehensive account of the species’ taxonomy.

The Kew database reports that Microlaena micranthera Ohwi, collected in Java, is a synonym for Ehrharta stipoides Labill.

M.stipoides var. micrantha Domin has been placed in synonymy with Ehrharta stipoides Labill. (IPNI, 2005; The Plant List, 2010).

M.stipoides subsp. tuberosus, which is said to flower from spring to autumn, is recognised by Florabank (2012); however, this taxon cannot be found in other references such as the APNI (2011) and its validity is unknown.

In Australia, ‘different forms…that vary in height’ have been recognised (Native Seeds Pty Ltd., 2012). Two are recognised formally as varieties, differentiated by the length of the awns (Sharp and Simon, 2002): M. stipoides var. breviseta was described by Vickery (1975), with a limited distribution in southern New South Wales, whereas var. stipoides is widespread and occurs over a range of habitats. Variability in the forms of Microlaena plants have been related to changes in its growing environment (Burbidge, 1984; Waters et al., 2000; Florabank, 2012).

Three varieties – ‘Shannon’, ‘Griffin’ and ‘Wakefield’ – have been bred by the University of New England (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, 2012).

Bennett and Mitchell (2012) reported two other varieties. ‘LIG 183’ (public variety) was selected by LIGULE program from a grass population that originated in the wheat-sheep zone near the border of New South Wales and Victoria and has considerable heat and drought tolerance. It is a relatively large plant, which produces considerable dry matter of high grazing quality. ‘LIG 704’ (public variety) was developed in the LIGULE program from a grass population that originated in the medium rainfall zone where grazing is the principal activity. It is an upright plant with medium textured leaves and is highly tolerant of acid soil conditions.

Description

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M. stipoides is a cool-season, tufted, perennial grass which produces year-round green growth. It spreads very slowly by short rhizomes under the soil. The seed heads are weeping and ripen from December to May in southern Australia. The seeds have rough awns up to 20 mm long and tend to cling together (Native Seeds Pty Ltd., 2011).

Wagner et al. (1999) described M. stipoides as a slender rhizomatous perennial with culms ascending or erect, usually decumbent at base, 30-75 cm tall and glabrous. Sheaths are 2-6 cm long, shorter than internodes, glabrous or retrorsely scabrous. The ligule is membranous, 0.2-0.5 mm long, with erose margins. The blades are flat, 3-8 (-14) cm long, 2-3 mm wide, glabrous or scaberulous, with scabrous margins. Pedicels are 1-2 mm long, rachilla somewhat elongate above glumes and between sterile lemmas. Glumes are membranous, nerveless, with first glume 0.2-0.5 mm long, apex acute, second glume 0.5-0.7 mm long, apex acute or bifid. Sterile lemma similar to glumes, coriaceous, obscurely 5-nerved; the nerves scaberulous and margins membranous. Apex with a scabrous awn 8-12 mm long, callus conspicuous, appressed silky pilose, the hairs ca. 1 mm long. Fertile lemma are 5-6 mm long, enclosed within margins of uppermost sterile lemma, obscurely 7-nerved, somewhat keeled, scabrous on upper part of keel, with an apiculate apex. Palea membranous, narrow, linear, shorter than lemma, 1-nerved, keeled, the keel sparsely ciliate, margins hyaline. Caryopsis yellow, narrow, somewhat compressed, 5-6 mm long. Inflorescences are paniculate, suberect to nodding, (4-) 10-19 cm long, narrow, usually unbranched; spikelets widely spaced, paired or solitary, either chasmogamous or cleistogamous, appressed along the slender axis, each one ca 10 mm long (excluding awns).

There are other detailed descriptions of M. stipoides, including for New Zealand (Edgar and Connor, 2010) and for Australia (Simon and Alfonso, 2011). Davies et al. (2005) give many more details of the structure and growth of M. stipoides in their Appendix 1C, pp 32-38.

Plant Type

Top of page Grass / sedge
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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Naturally Occurring Distribution

Published statements of the natural range of M. stipoides vary to some extent from author to author, but generally the range is given as Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines (Sharp and Simon, 2002; Edgar and Connor 2010; PIER, 2010; Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, 2012). The last three countries are sometimes grouped as Malesia (e.g. Clayton and Renvoize, 1986; Sharp and Simon, 2002). Some references appear to mix natural and naturalized locations (e.g. Clayton et al., 2012).

In Australia, M. stipoides is a widespread grass species that occurs from northern Queensland into all southern states, with a separate population in Western Australia (Sharp and Simon, 2002). Australia Virtual Herbarium (Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2012) has records of M. stipoides for all Australian states except Northern Territory. It is stated to be ‘fairly common in open forest’ on both Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands (Orchard, 1994).

In New Zealand it has been recorded as occurring naturally in North, South, Stewart, Chatham and Kermadec (Raoul) Islands (Edgar and Connor, 2010). Within these islands, it is recorded throughout the North and South Islands, though it is ‘less frequent in Canterbury, Otago and Westland', and 'absent in Fiordland’.

Introduced Distribution

M. stipoides has been introduced into Hawaii and Réunion Island and has been reported as invasive on both (PIER 2010). In the Hawaiian Islands, M. stipoides (usually as E. stipoides) has been recorded for Oahu, Maui, Hawaii (O'Connor, 1990), Kauai (Lorence et al., 1995), Kaho'olawe (Herbst and Clayton 1998) and Molokai (Wysong et al. 2006). M. stipoides has been reported as invasive in Reunion Island (Lavergne, 2006; PIER, 2010). It is listed as one of the principal invading exotic plants of the natural environment by Soubeyran (2008).

It is naturalized in Chile (Global Compendium of Weeds, 2012; Encyclopedia of Life, 2012).

In the UK, Stace (2010) described it as a ‘rather infrequent wool alien’ and ‘scattered over England’.

In South Africa, M. stipoides is listed by SANBI (2012) as a naturalized exotic. A known specimen of M. stipoides was collected from KwaZulu-Natal, in the Liais River district of South Africa (Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2012).

Grassworld (2012) states that M. stipoides has a distribution covering Sri Lanka, as well as Indonesia (Java, Lesser Sunda Islands), the Philippines and New Guinea, but does not state whether these places belong to the natural or introduced range of M. stipoides. The Kew database of grasses (Clayton et al., 2012), records M. stipoides (as Ehrharta stipoides) from India, but no other records indicate its presence in India.

Distribution Table

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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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

IndiaAbsent, unreliable recordClayton et al., 2012Unknown (Clayton et al., 2012 refer only to 'India')
Indonesia
-JavaPresentGrassworld, 2012Mt. Rengger above Tosari
-Nusa TenggaraPresentNativeSutrisno, 1993; Grassworld, 2012Bali, Lombok, Madura, West Timor, Lesser Sunda Is, Menipo Island (Sutrisno 1993)
PhilippinesPresentNativeMerrill, 1925; USDA, 2012
Sri LankaPresentGrassworld, 2012

Africa

RéunionPresent Invasive Lavergne, 2006; Soubeyran, 2008
South AfricaPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1982Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, CHAH; Lyn Fish, personal communication; SANBI, 2012KwaZulu-Natal, Liais River district; near Haenertsburg, Limpopo

North America

USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiPresent2010Introduced Invasive O’Connor, 1990; Lorence et al., 1995; Herbst and Clayton, 1998; PIER, 2003; Wysong et al., 2007Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Kahoolawe, Molokai

South America

ChilePresentEncyclopedia of Life, EoL; Marticorena and Quezada, 1985

Europe

UKPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Biological Records Centre, 2012Bedfordshire 1959

Oceania

AustraliaPresentNative Not invasive Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, CHAH
-Australian Northern TerritoryWidespreadNative Not invasive Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, CHAH
-Lord Howe Is.PresentNativePIER, 2012
-New South WalesWidespreadNative Not invasive Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, CHAH
-QueenslandWidespreadNative Not invasive Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, CHAH
-South AustraliaWidespreadNative Not invasive Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, CHAH
-TasmaniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, CHAH
-VictoriaWidespreadNative Not invasive Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, CHAH
-Western AustraliaPresentNative Not invasive Sharp and Simon, 2002
New ZealandWidespreadNative Not invasive Edgar and Connor, 2010N & S Is, Stewart I, Raoul I, Chatham Is. Separate islands citations in the text
Norfolk IslandWidespreadNative Not invasive Orchard, 1994
Papua New GuineaPresentNative Not invasive Henty, 1969

History of Introduction and Spread

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All known introductions of M. stipoides are from Australia. There are no known studies of its rate of spread in a new country, at least partly because its discovery has often led to its immediate control, as is the case in Hawaii. In the UK, M. stipoides was first recorded in the wild in 1959 in Bedfordshire, but the Biological Records Centre (2012) states there are no recent reports. As in the case of its introduction to the UK, the date of its first establishment is likely to be well before of the first collection or other record.

M. stipoides was first recorded in Hawaii in 1985, but since it was already well-established then, it probably first arrived significantly earlier (Smith, 1985). The earliest record for South Africa is from 1982.

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Chile Australia   Crop production (pathway cause) ,
Hitchhiker (pathway cause)
Encyclopedia of Life (EoL) (2012); Marticorena and Quezada (1985)
Hawaii Australia 1985 Crop production (pathway cause) ,
Hitchhiker (pathway cause)
O’Connor (1990); O'Connor (1990); O'Connor (1990) Well-established in Smith (1985) so probably arrived much earlier
India Australia   Crop production (pathway cause) ,
Hitchhiker (pathway cause)
Clayton et al. (2012) Non-verified record
South Africa Australia 1982 Crop production (pathway cause) ,
Hitchhiker (pathway cause)
Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) (2012); SANBI (2012)
Sri Lanka Australia   Crop production (pathway cause) ,
Hitchhiker (pathway cause)
Grassworld (2012) Non-verified record
UK Australia 1959 Harvesting fur, wool or hair (pathway cause)Biological Records Centre (2012)

Risk of Introduction

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In the past, M. stipoides has arrived as an exotic weed through wool contamination, although this risk has declined in some countries (e.g. the UK) with better wool hygiene by either wool exporters or importers (Shimwell, 2006; Stace, 2010). 

Given the enthusiasm for growing M. stipoides in pastures and lawns in Australia (Whalley, 1995) and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand, imported seed mixes are a likely source of new populations of the grass in places outside its natural range. Once established in a new country, the grass may be spread deliberately.

Habitat

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M. stipoides is associated with dry soils (good drainage, light soils, tolerance of periodic drought) and can tolerate exposure to the sun, but is more tolerant of light shade than many pasture and weedy grasses. Naturally occurring M. stipoides is commonly found in very high soil nutrient situations, such as on the margins of sheep camps, but conversely it has a low soil fertility tolerance and exploits soil disturbance (Smith 1985; New South Wales Department of Primary Industries 2012).

In New Zealand it is found in ‘open lowland forest and manuka-kanuka scrub, ruderal and in rough pasture; sea level to 1300 m’ (Edgar and Connor, 2010). In the Philippines, HEAR (PIER, 2012) cited Merrill (1925) as recording it ‘on open slopes and ridges, along mountain trails, etc., altitude 1,800 to 2,300 m’.

In Hawaii, Smith (1985) stated that M. stipoides was common in moist and wet habitats, which is unusual for this species. Major infestations from Puna to South Kona were reported on the island of Hawaii, where it was recorded between 100 and 1500 m in dry to mesic areas. More recent details of M. stipoides on the island of Hawaii are given by the University of Hawaii (1998). On Maui, in Haleakala National Park, several plants were discovered at 1,280 m and 1,430 m (Anderson et al., 1992).

On Kauai it is naturalized at higher elevations in disturbed areas of native Metrosideros and Acacia forest and as a lawn weed (Lorence et al., 1995). In reports on the restoration of threatened native plants on Kauai, US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010a, 2010b) mentions M. stipoides in the habitats of Schiedea spp.

M. stipoides remains green even in times of drought, and is reasonably frost tolerant and shade tolerant (Mueller, 1881). It is a versatile species, but different intraspecific taxa and variants (see Biology and Ecology) might account for at least some of the habitat differences in sites where M. stipoides has been found.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Principal habitat
Natural grasslands Principal habitat
Rocky areas / lava flows Secondary/tolerated habitat
Scrub / shrublands Principal habitat

Hosts/Species Affected

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Over time, M. stipoides may out-compete other lawn grasses in mown lawns in light shade. M. stipoides is a threat to the endangered, short-lived perennial plant maolioli (Schiedea apokremnos) and the endangered plant Schiedea stellarioides on the Hawaiian island of Kauai (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2010a,b).

Outside its natural range, there is a lack of clear evidence as to its impacts on native species and even a lack of speculation about its potential impacts. Particularly in Hawaii, managers have preferred to eradicate M. stipoides wherever it is found rather than wait to see how it might behave if not controlled.

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

In Australia and New Zealand the chromosome number is reported as 2n=48 (Jones and Whalley 1994a; Murray et al., 2005; Edgar and Connor, 2010).

Of almost 40 populations in Victoria, Australia, plants in high altitude and high rainfall zones were less genetically variable than those from the lower altitude and drier conditions. Plants occurring in the latter areas that had been subject to disturbance by farming or logging were also more genetically variable, and hence flexible, than those that occurred in undisturbed or natural conditions (Henry et al., 2011). M. stipoides does not appear to be threatened by changing temperatures and rainfall and is believed to have sufficient internal variability to withstand significant climatic change.

Variation in characters of M. stipoides has been reported across parts of its natural geographic range (Davies et al., 2005b). They examined M. stipoides as a possible new grain crop, and measured seed yield and its components (culm number, spikelet number per culm, seed set, seed weight) in 46 accessions of M. stipoides from Western Australia and New South Wales in order to quantify potentially useful variation in the species. A high degree of variability was found to exist in each character examined, including a 20-fold range in seed yield (0.1–2.4 g/plant).

Reproductive Biology

The flowers of M. stipoides are either chasmogamous (flowers open for pollination) or cleistogamous (flowers fertilise without opening, i.e. self-pollinating) (Edgar and Connor, 2010). The number of stamens was given by Edgar and Connor (2010) as 2-3-4 in both chasmogamous and cleistogamous flowers, though the anthers were larger in the former. Stamen number was given as 1-6 by Simon and Alfonso (2011). Edgar and Connor (2010) also note the presence of cleistogenes, ‘axillary hidden spikelets or reduced inflorescences usually at the base of culms and differing from aerial spikelets’, in M. stipoides. Similar accounts are given by Watson and Dallwitz (1992) and Jones and Whalley (1994a). Inflorescences are paniculate, sub-erect to nodding, (4-) 10-19 cm long, narrow and usually unbranched (Wagner et al., 1999).

The seed heads are weeping and ripen from December to May in southern Australia. The seeds have rough awns up to 20 mm long and tend to cling together (Native Seeds Pty Ltd., 2011).

M. stipoides can also reproduce via rhizome fragments, and can spread very slowly by its short rhizomes under the soil.

Physiology and Phenology

M. stipoides is a C3 species, meaning that its photosynthetic pathway is more efficient in cool climates than in warm climates. There is concern that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen would tend to disadvantage C4 grasses and enable C3 aliens to establish in grassland and savanna environments. An outline of this in relation to South African grass invasions is given by Milton (2004). M. stipoides is competitive with other grass species at high nitrogen levels (Badgery, 2005).

Flowering and seeding have been reported at length in Australian crop trials (Davies et al. 2005a, 2005b). Under experimental field conditions, seeds of M. stipoides sown in dry ground in summer were found to germinate once autumn rain arrived (Huxtable and Whalley, 1999).

Chivers and Aldous (2005) reported on trials that showed increased seed production in M. stipoides after adding nitrogen and water. A series of small trials in Melbourne, Australia, examined some agronomic aspects of establishment of M. stipoides from seed, including depth of planting, the planting of husked versus intact seeds and tolerance to pre-emergence herbicides (Chivers et al., 1997).

Under the exposed conditions of the roadside environment in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia, Huxtable and Whalley (1999) found that M. stipoides was capable of satisfactory establishment from spring sowings on a prepared seedbed, given adequate rainfall. Satisfactory results were also achieved if seeds were sown into a dry seedbed in summer and autumn rains were relied upon to induce germination.

Longevity

M. stipoides is a short-lived (i.e. less than 15 years) perennial grass (Florabank, 2012).

Associations

Within its natural range, M. stipoides may form almost pure swards, or occur with a wide variety of other grasses, herbaceous dicots, shrubs and trees. On Menipo Island, a small island in the Lesser Sunda Islands, M. stipoides was recorded as a co-dominant grass in savannah vegetation (Sutrisno, 1993).

Environmental Requirements

M. stipoides is tolerant of frost to -5°C, of salt-laden coastal winds and of acidic soils (less than pH=6.5) (Florabank, 2012). Kent et al. (2002) reported that it will increase in frequency with an increase in soil acidity.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
52 47.40

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -5
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 9 20
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 15 41
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -1 9

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall2002250mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal
Uniform

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • very acid

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • shallow

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

There are no records of non-biotic dispersal, although seeds may disperse very short distances by wind or water.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Awned fruit can be dispersed on clothing or animal fur and this appears to be the main method by which seed reaches new sites (Smith, 1985; Anderson et al. 1992; Wagner, 1999). In ungulate-disturbed areas of Hawaiian rainforest, pigs are the chief vector (Madeiros et al., 1998); in Australia and New Zealand, sheep may carry seed (NSWDPI, 2012). There are reports of dogs dispersing seed in Australia (Native Grasses as Turf, 2010).

The arrival of M. stipoides in England was attributed to its presence as seed in imported wool (Shimwell, 2006).

Deliberate sowing of seed may also occur, as it is sometimes used for stock grazing, erosion control and turf management.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionDeliberate in natural range as pasture; accidental as seed contaminant Yes Yes Biological Records Centre, 2012; Huxtable and Whalley, 1999
Harvesting fur, wool or hairUncommon, but has occurred to UK from poss. NZ or Australia in imported wool Yes Biological Records Centre, 2012
HitchhikerOn animal coats e.g. dogs, wild pigs in Hawaii Yes Medeiros et al., 1998; Native Turf as Grass, 2010
Intentional releasesee Agriculture Yes Yes
Seed tradeas pasture seed contaminant (?) Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
True seeds (inc. grain) Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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During the Australian summer, it has been claimed the seed from M. stipoides can cause serious damage to sheep’s eyes and skin and can be a contaminant of wool (VVPCMN, 2012). No other reports could be found that specify M. stipoides for seeds that can harm sheep, but numerous exotic grasses are implicated in damaging animal pelts.

There are many references, particularly in Australian literature and websites, as to the usefulness of M. stipoides for lawns and pastures within its natural range. Examples include: Jones and Whalley (1994a, 1994b),  Martin (2004), Davies et al. (2005a), Smith (2005) and Native Seeds Pty Ltd. (2011).

Environmental Impact

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M. stipoides is a threat to the endangered, short-lived perennial plant maolioli (Schiedea apokremnos) and the endangered plant Schiedea stellarioides on the Hawaiian island of Kauai (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2010a; 2010b).

It is a fire-stimulated grass and in Hawaii carries fires over larger areas than normally expected (Smith 1985). It has also been suggested that, in Hawaii, M. stipoides can establish in a shaded forest understory and potentially interfere with native understory succession (Chimera, pers. comm., 2012). On Maui, in Haleakala National Park, Anderson et al. (1992) reported that M. stipoides has the capacity to form a dense monotypic ground cover even under shaded conditions. Medeiros et al. (1998) recorded that M. stipoides is an aggressive, naturalized species in Haleakala National Park.

There is an anecdotal report of M. stipoides seeds damaging a dog's eye (Garden Express, 2012).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Schiedea apokremnos (Kauai schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shadingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010a
Schiedea stellarioidesCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shadingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010b

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Damages animal/plant products
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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M. stipoides appears to have considerable potential for stock grazing, erosion control and turf management uses in some countries where it does not occur naturally. For New Zealand, a useful summary is given by Smith (2005) and a site-specific case in Woods (1993).

M. stipoides contains higher nutrients than grasses exotic to Australia, and so is used as horse and cattle feed in paddocks there (Native Grass as Turf, 2010). A detailed account of the pasture and turf-forming qualities of M. stipoides in Australia is given by Martin (2004).

There are many references, particularly in Australian literature and websites, as to the usefulness of M. stipoides for lawns and pastures within its natural range. Examples include: Jones and Whalley (1994a,b), Martin (2004), Davies et al. (2005a), Smith (2005) and Native Seeds Pty Ltd. (2011). M. stipoides remains green even in times of drought, and is reasonably frost tolerant and shade tolerant (Mueller, 1881). To a plant breeder this suggests a native species with the capacity to respond quickly to new selection pressures and therefore well worth further examination for its turf potential. Whalley (1995) stated that M. stipoides probably has the greatest potential of any Australian native grass for development as a turf species. This was reiterated by Whalley and Jones (1996).

An examination of an extensive collection of M. stipoides ecotypes at the University of New England (Armidale, New South Wales, Australia) revealed at least two lines which were capable of forming a good lawn under regular mowing, at sowing densities of 10,000 seeds per square metre (Jones and Whalley 1994a,b). Mowing on a weekly basis led to formation of a better turf than mowing at two or three weekly intervals. Several ecotypes have been placed into Plant Breeders’ Rights protection including 'Griffin' for turf use and 'Shannon' for roadside work and golf course roughs (University of New England, 2006).

In a report on managing an historic Maori pa (early village) site in Northland, New Zealand, Woods (1993) regarded M. stipoides as being the most useful plant in achieving a vegetation cover that was non-damaging to the historic earthworks. It was already present on the pa site, amongst vegetation dominated by exotic grasses and broad-leaved herbs. Among the advantages of M. stipoides for this site, Woods (1993) stated that it tolerated shading too severe for most lawn species but also grew well in full sun, and tolerated poor soil fertility. It also tolerated mowing well, though it was noted that close mowing could cause scalping.

There is now greater awareness of the impacts of imported species on natural ecosystems. Many countries regret the arrival, either deliberately or accidentally, of grasses such as Ehrharta erecta, E. calycina, E. villosa, Cortaderia selloana, C. jubata, Spartina spp. and Ammophila arenaria, despite their occasional practical uses. Any suggestion of importing M. stipoides needs to be considered very carefully because, once well-established, it is difficult to eradicate.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage

Environmental

  • Amenity
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Land reclamation
  • Revegetation
  • Soil conservation

Human food and beverage

  • Seeds

Materials

  • Mulches

Detection and Inspection

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M. stipoides is a fairly inconspicuous grass, especially when it grows at low densities among other grasses, meaning it might well be thoroughly naturalized before it is discovered.

However, in the field M.stipoides can be distinguished from many other fine grasses by its usually scabrid sheaths covering the stems (culms) that are rough to the touch, especially when stroked upwards. The leaves are also finely scabrid, especially the margins when stroked downwards. The fine stems, usually with drooping narrow panicles of long-awned spikelets, are distinctive. With a 10x hand-lens the two minute glumes (about 0.5 mm long) can be seen clasping the base of each spikelet of flowers.

In order to collect seed, Woods (1993) recommended that M. stipoides not be mown or grazed by livestock from September onwards (in New Zealand); seed can be harvested mid-December to early-February and stored under refrigerated conditions in paper or cloth bags. Threshing of seed is not necessary. Seed dormancy has not been noted. De-hulled seed should be sown during autumn or spring at 30 g per metre, when adequate soil moisture can be expected.

Prevention and Control

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Chemical Control

M. stipoides can be killed by herbicide applications. One report cited success on Hawaii with the foliar herbicide glyphosate (Medeiros et al., 1998); however, Bennett and Mitchell (2012) stated that M. stipoides is tolerant of glyphosate herbicides. Trials reported by Dodd et al. (2010) in pastures showed that it was more tolerant of glyphosate than all other species in the plots. Even at 8 l per ha, not all M. stipoides was killed. In situations where M. stipoides is an unwanted invasive species, glyphosate is likely to be more expensive and more damaging to non-target species than is usual for glyphosate weed control.

Physical Control

Mowing M. stipoides can prevent it flowering and hence seeding. The use of grazing animals to consume flower heads seasonally might be an option to reduce seed output, but would need to be done before seed matures. Seed is likely to pass through the gut of herbivorous mammals and animal disturbance of sites with M. stipoides is likely to benefit establishment of the grass.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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There are only a few publications on the distribution of M. stipoides as a native species outside of Australia and New Zealand. More specific details would be useful for New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines. There are also very few details of its presence in South Africa, Chile, Réunion, Sri Lanka and India.

References

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Organizations

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Hawaii: Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project (HEAR), Hawaii, http://www.hear.org/

Australia: Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, www.anbg.gov.au

Contributors

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25/08/12 Original text by:

CC Ogle, Consultant, New Zealand

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