ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Natural populations

Microlaena stipoides is a widespread grass species that occurs from North Queensland into all southern States with a separate population in Western Australia. There are two recognised varieties differentiated by the length of the awns [7]. Var. breviseta is limited in distribution on the southern New South Wales, while the typical variety, 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 [39, 58]. It has been found that genetically distinct forms of Microlaena stipoides can occur in the same paddock, with different plant associations; this micro-evolutionary differentiation seems to have occurred over a very short period of perhaps 30 years [34, 81].

Microlaena prefers moist well drained soils that are moderately to highly fertile, in semi-shaded areas [11], and will increase in frequency with an increase in soil acidity [58, 81]. Habitat is varied, common in damp grassland, heath, woodland and forest; widespread in damper lowlands of southern Australia [40]. On the northern tablelands of NSW it is found particularly in shaded high fertility areas, whereas in Victoria it also occurs on unshaded slopes under grazing [38].

Flowering and seeds

Subsp. tuberosus flowers spring to autumn. Flowers last for one day only but are very prolific and flowering time depends on the timing of the wet season [110]. Fruiting in autumn; the seeds are musk scented. Propagation may be from seeds, small tubers or stem cuttings. Seeds germinate readily but some difficulty is often experienced in getting the plant to establish in the ground [110].  A perennial plant, the foliage dies back in the dry season to grow again from its tuber in the wet.

Cultivation and uses

Microlaena stipoides is a perennial grass which retains a significant proportion of green leaves year-round, has high herbage production and provides forage during the winter-early spring period [81, 82]. Among the highest quality grasses in late spring, summer and early autumn and grazing cattle have recorded excellent weight gains [82]. It is of greater pastoral importance in woodlands of Tasmania and South Australia [39]. Pasture management factors of high tree density, minimum soil disturbance and long period since last cultivation favour Microlaena stipoides [81]. It produces high quality feed (10 to 27% crude protein) that is also highly digestible [58]. A variety (‘Griffin’) developed by University of New England, is one of the best low maintenance lawns [118]. Microlaena stipoides provides good habitat and seed for native birds and can be used as an ornamental in rockeries or under trees in gardens [11].

Key descriptors:

Var. stipoides:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 200-2250 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: summer, uniform or winter
Mean annual temperature: 9-20 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 15-41 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: -1-9 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 0-1200 metres
Tolerance of extremes in climate
Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Wind: tolerates salt-laden coastal winds
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam or loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam
Soil pH reaction: acidic (less than 6.5)
Soil depth: moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater)
Drainage: well-drained
Tolerance of adverse soils
Extremes in pH: acidity
Biological traits under cultivation
Longevity: short-lived less than 15 years
Growth rate: fast
Root system: shallow and spreading
Shade tolerance: tolerates partial shade
Potentially undesirable attributes
Foliage: highly susceptible to browsing by animals

Var. breviseta:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 850-1600 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: uniform
Mean annual temperature: 7-19 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 23-26 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: 0-4 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): 3. greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 250-950 metres
Tolerance of extremes in climate
Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam or loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam
Soil pH reaction: acidic (less than 6.5)
oil depth: moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater)
Drainage: well-drained
Tolerance of adverse soils
Extremes in pH: acidity
Biological traits under cultivation
Longevity: short-lived less than 15 years
Growth rate: fast
Root system: shallow and spreading
Shade tolerance: tolerates partial shade
Potentially undesirable attributes
Foliage: highly susceptible to browsing by animals

References

[7] Sharp D, Simon BK (2002) AusGrass: Grasses of Australia. CD-ROM, Version 1.0., Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra, and Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland.

[11] Kent K, Earl G, Mullins B, Lunt I, Webster R (2002) Native Vegetation Guide for the Riverina: notes for land managers on its management and revegetation. Charles Sturt University, NSW.

[34] Waters CM (2001) Guiding the delimitation of local provenance for Australian native grasses. In: Second National Conference of the Native Grasses Association. Stipa Native Grasses Association Inc., NSW. (Online  http://www.regional.org.au/au/stip Accessed: September 2007).

[38] Mitchell M, Miller M (1990) The identification of some common native grasses in Victoria - a set of compilation notes. Rutherglen Research Institute, Victoria.

[39] Burbidge N (1984) Australian Grasses (Volume 1): Australian Capital Territory and Southern Tablelands of New South Wales. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

[40] Forbes SJ, Cade JW, Lamp CA (2001) Grasses of Temperate Australia - a field guide. Bloomings Books, Melbourne.

[55] Mitchell M (2001) Grazing Management and its influence on rooting depth of native grasses. Second National Conference proceedings, STIPA, Gulgong, NSW.

[56] Vogel W (1997) Agriculture Notes: Recovery of pastures after spring floods. AG0585, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria.

[57] Garden D, Dowling P (1999) Grazing management of Danthonia & Microlaena-based native pastures. SGS Tips & Tools No. 6/99, NSW Agriculture.

[58] Waters C, Whalley W, Huxtable C (2000) Grassed Up: Guidelines for revegetating with Australian native grasses. NSW Agriculture, NSW. (Online  http://www.ricecrc.org/reader/grassed-up  Accessed: August 2007)

[59] Beckers DJ, Whalley RDB, Jones CE and Murphy MA (1997) Sowing depth and mulches with surface sown seed. In: Commercialising the Australian native grass Microlaena stipoides. RIRDC Publication No 97/34.

[75] Clarke S, French K (2005) Germination response to heat and smoke of 22 Poaceae species from grassy woodlands. Australian Journal of Botany 53, 445-454.

[81] Magcale-Macandog DB, Whalley RDB (1994) Factors affecting the distribution and abundance of Microlaena stipoides (Labill.) R. BR. on the northern tablelands of New South Wales. Rangeland Journal 16 (1), 26-38.

[82] Allan C, Whalley RDB (2004) Some factors influencing landholder opinion of the native grass Microlaena stipoides. Rangeland Journal 26 (2), 178-189.

[118] Native Seeds Pty Ltd (2006) Australian native grasses - catalogue. Native Seeds Pty Ltd, Cheltenham, Victoria.

Internet links

FloraBase Western Australia Flora Online – species description & distribution: http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/485;http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/11747

PlantNet NSW Flora Online – species description & distribution: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Microlaena~stipoides

South Australia Flora Online – species description & distribution: http://www.flora.sa.gov.au/cgi-bin/texhtml.cgi?form=speciesfacts&family=Gramineae&genus=Microlaena&species=stipoides

Top