Spear Grass

© Ivan Van der Walt


Spear grass (Heteropogon contortus)


Spear grass is perennial and grows quickly, reaching a height of 1 m. Its inflorescence is a singular raceme which is often covered in hairs, with long, soft, brown, tangled awns. The leaf sheaths are flattened together, its awns twisting and tangling when dry.


The only time when this grass is palatable is during early summer. Thereafter it becomes brittle, hard and inedible. The awns often get stuck in sheep’s coats which reduced the quality of the wool.


Spear grass occurs in South Africa in Limpopo Province and the Kruger National Park. It grows in open areas of well-drained, rocky soil. It often grows along roadsides.


This grass flowers from October to March.

Field Notes

Spear grass is an important fodder. However, it has been known to affect the wool industry for its awns penetrating sheep’s coats. The Australian wool industry was greatly influenced by spear grass.