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Spiny burr grass

Regionally prohibited in the Glenelg Hopkins, Port Phillip and Western Port catchments.

Regionally controlled in the Mallee, Wimmera, North Central, Goulburn Broken, North East, West Gippsland and East Gippsland catchments.

Restricted in the Corangamite, West Gippsland and East Gippsland catchments.

Plant biology

Appearance

Herbaceous plant — Graminoid (grass, sedge or rush)

Description

Spiny burr grass is an erect or spreading annual summer growing grass.

Stems

Spiny burr grass produces several stems from the base which are branched, hairless and somewhat flattened, particularly at the base. They are either erect or spreading and ascending.

Roots are formed at basal nodes when in contact with soil.

Leaves

Leaves of spiny burr grass are wide and smooth but sometimes twisted and wrinkled. They have fine serrations and flattened sheaths growing to a length of 20cm and a width of 5 to 8mm. The ligule is a narrow membrane fringed with hairs 1 to 1.5mm long.

Flowers

Flowers of spiny burr grass have a spike-like panicle 3 to 8cm long consisting of up to 40 burrs and are often partially enclosed in a leaf sheath.

The burr is yellow to green, 3 to 7mm in diameter (excluding the spines) and comprising of 1 to 4 florets.

Spines are purple-tinged, spreading or reflexed, slender but broadened at the base. They are sharply pointed, finely barbed and rigid.

Fruit

Seeds

Spiny burr grass seeds are whitish with brown streaks or blotches, 3 to 4mm long, 2mm wide, ovoid, smooth and lacking a pappus.

Growth and lifecycle

Method of reproduction and dispersal

Spiny burr grass is spread by water, animals, fodder, clothing and machinery. The seed contains barbed spines on the burr which attach to wool, fur, clothing, bags and other fibrous materials.

Seedbank propagule persistence

Spiny burr grass can produce up to 1000 seeds per plant with some seeds remaining dormant for up to three years.

While some plants may survive a mild winter to produce a small crop of burrs, this species is essentially an annual. A mature plant produces seeds for only 1 year. The weed germinates in spring or summer with burr produced from December to April. Most plants die in autumn.

Preferred habitat

Spiny burr grass prefers temperate sub-humid and semi-arid regions where it grows well on low-fertility, sandy, well drained soils. It establishes readily on disturbed sites in the 250 to 500mm annual rainfall belt. The weed has some tolerance to frost and low temperatures.

Distribution

Spiny burr grass is well established in the dry farmlands of the Victorian and South Australian Mallee and in irrigated areas along the Murray River in both states.

Growth calendar

The icons on the following table represent the times of year for flowering, seeding, germination, the dormancy period of Spiny burr grass and also the optimum time for treatment.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Flowering
Seeding
Germination
Dormancy <
Treatment

Impact

Impact on ecosystems and waterways

Spiny burr grass grows well on disturbed road edges and infests neglected areas and summer crops. The weed forms tussocks of up to 30cm high and 60cm across.

It grows in open, dry sandy conditions and is a pioneer plant of disturbed sandy soils. It also grows well under irrigation. Disturbance enhances invasiveness and can cause displacement of desirable grass species.

Agricultural and economic impacts

Spiny burr grass does not establish readily in pastures.

The burrs can become badly tangled in wool, lowering its value and making sheep difficult to handle. This can result in additional costs to handle burr-infested stock. Spines from the plant can easily puncture the skin of animals and affect the value of the hides. The weed is also a contaminant in dried fruit and may infest lucerne hay.

Social value and health impacts

The spines of spiny burr grass can easily puncture the skin of animals and has the potential to injure fauna. Spines may also injure humans.

Burrs are present for much of the year. The plant does not pose any restrictions to human movement except when burrs are present.

Management

Prescribed measures for the control of noxious weeds:

  • application of a registered herbicide
  • cultivation
  • physical removal.

Other management techniques

Changes in land use practices and spread prevention may also support spiny burr grass management after implementing the prescribed measures.

What Plants Will Grow in a Swampy Area?

A great way to grow plants in what might otherwise be seen as an inhospitable space is to visit nearby swampy areas in the wild. See what is growing naturally in such areas. If you see something that you can live with, check for its availability at a local establishment that specializes in native plants.

Below are listed several plants known to grow near swampy areas. Listed first are trees, then shrubs, then perennials. This way, you will have a whole range of plant sizes from which to choose. Do note, however, that the perennial, Joe-Pye weed, is actually taller than many shrubs.

Plant Choices for Swampy Areas: Trees

The swamp tupelo is the best choice here if what you are looking for is something different, a plant that probably no one else in the neighborhood will have. As its name suggests, this is one plant known to grow in swampy areas. It will tolerate some flooding, even though it does not want to be in water year-round. This tree is native to the eastern U.S. Besides its tolerance for swampy ground; its shiny, red autumn leaves may be its best feature. In fact, it is one of the most colorful trees in fall. Plant this tree in a spot with full sun to partial shade. This is one of those plants that want an acidic soil.

Shrubs

You cannot go wrong with either pussy willows or winterberry if you enjoy crafts. Who doesn’t like to pick pussy willows in late winter or early spring, bring them indoors, and display them in a vase to dispel cabin fever? If your craft interests are more serious, sprigs of winterberry are excellent for decorating a kissing ball for the holidays.

Perennials

Northern blue flag may be the prettiest of the bunch. It is, after all, a type of iris, and the irises are among the world’s most beautiful flowers. Mentioning “flag” to a gardening friend may provoke the reaction that this may be an invasive plant, but do not be scared off: It is the yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) that is invasive in North America, not the blue kind.