Little Bluestem

A Little Bluestem plant growing on a traffic island in the northern suburbs of Brisbane

Recent Invaders 1 - Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium microstachyum)

The 'recent invaders' articles provide information on weed species that have been noted as having become naturalised or demonstrated marked increases in abundance in south east Queensland within the last decade or so and which appear to pose a significant threat to the ecological integrity of bushland remnants. In the event that any of the species described in this series are encountered, weed officers from the relevant local government authority should be alerted as soon as possible.

Origin

Little Bluestem is native to Central and South America.

Description

Little Bluestem is a densely tufted perennial grass growing to more than a metre tall, although it is most often seen growing to about 60 cm. It is a very distinctive grass, especially following flowering when it produces masses of feathery seeds. It superficially resembles Whisky Grass (Andropogon virginicus), a related species also from South America that has been present in Australia for several decades. While the leaves and stems of the two species are very similar, the flowers and seeding heads of Little Bluestem are more densely clustered than those of Whisky Grass. The individual seeds of Little Bluestem are smaller than those of Whisky Grass.

Habitat and distribution in south east Queensland

This species has been observed at numerous widely scattered localities across the greater Brisbane region. Psp Ecological has recorded it at several reserves in the northern and eastern suburbs of Brisbane, including the Kedron Brook Wetlands, Boondall Wetlands, Tinchi Tamba Wetlands, Raven Street and Chermside Hills, as well as on private property in the Narangba area. Most occurrences of the species have been on alluvial soils prone to waterlogging but it has also been observed growing on soils on hill slopes derived from metasediments. We have also seen it growing on a traffic island at a major northside intersection.

Potential threat to biodiversity

Little Bluestem appears generally to behave similarly to Whisky Grass, tending to occur at low to moderate densities on sites subjected to mechanical soil disturbance. However, some infestations, such as those that were found in the Boondall Wetlands Reserve, have been observed in relatively undisturbed bushland. The species remains relatively rare but the density of some of the infestations suggests that it has the potential to outcompete native grasses, at least at a local scale.


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