African Lovegrass

Eragrostis curvula complex

Synonyms - Eragrostis chloromelas, Poa curvula.

Family: Poaceae.

Names:

Eragrostis is from the Greek word eros for love and agrostis for grass and refers to the delicate flower structure.
Curvula is from the Latin word meaning to curve and refers to the curved weeping leaves.
African Lovegrass - African refers to the country of origin and lovegrass is a translation of Eragrostis.
Complex is used because there are seven different agronomic types of which 4 are naturalised in Australia. These are Curvula, Robusta Green, Short Chloromelas and Tall Chloromelas.

Other names:

Bergsoetgras (South Africa)
Boer Lovegrass (Conferta types)
Fyngras (South Africa)
Weeping Lovegrass is often used but is more properly applied to E. parviflora.

Summary:

African Lovegrass is a vigorous, drought resistant, densely tufted perennial grass to 1.2 m tall with slender, weeping, blue-green to dark green, often inrolled leaves. The fine seed head is leaden grey and initially long and narrow but opens widely with age. The spikelets are 4-10 mm long, each with several florets which lack bristles. Semi-dormant in winter and is a C4 plant.
Native to South Africa, it is now a serious weed of roadsides sometimes invading bushland and flowers for most of the year.

Description:

Cotyledons:

One

Leaves:

Emerging leaf rolled in the bud.
Blade - Dark green to blue green, 250-350 mm long x 1-5 mm wide, arched, rough to touch, overlapping, thread like to curly. Tips pointed and curved or curly. Edges may be rolled inwards. Upper surface hairless or with fine wart based hairs. Hairy near the base.
Ligule - Fringe of hairs, 0.5-1 mm long.
Auricles - None.
Sheath - Yellowish, strongly keeled, striped, often leathery. Often without hairs or hairy on the lower part of the sheaths especially of the lower leaves.

Stems:

Densely tufted, 300-1200(1500) mm tall, rigid, smooth, slender to robust, wiry, often purple at base. Erect sometimes bent upwards at the nodes. 2-3 obvious nodes. Sometimes branching. Hairless.

Flower head:

Panicle. 60-400 mm long x 100-200 mm wide. Initially greenish purple to lead-grey, erect and dense then later it is open and spreading. Main branches up to 150 mm long and bent upwards. Lowest branches often in rings with hairs in the axils. Upper branches usually arise singly, sometimes in pairs or rarely in rings of 3 or more. Branches and branchlets often wavy. Hairy or bearded in the axils. Spikelets usually held close to the branch but occasionally spreading.

Flowers:

Spikelets - Single, Grey green to lead-grey, parallel sided, 4-11 mm long x 1-2 mm wide, 3-13 overlapping fertile flowers. On short stalks. Not furrowed down the centre.
Florets - Loosely overlapping.
Glumes - Fall off when mature, keeled, smooth, membranous, 1 nerved and hairless apart from the keel that is rough. Unequal lengths. Acute tip.
Lower one, egg shaped. 1-1.8 mm long.
Upper one narrowly egg shaped, 1.5-3 mm long.
Palea - As long as lemma, persistent, keeled. Smooth and hairless or slightly rough on the keel.
Lemma - Oval. 1.8-2.8 mm long x 1.4 mm wide, sometimes rough, rounded tip. Awnless. Falls off when mature.
Stamens -3.
Anthers - 3, purple. 0.8-1.3 mm long.
Spikelet axis is fragile and breaks from the top down

Fruit:

Seeds:

Cream to dark orange or brown, translucent, oval, 0.3-0.7 mm long, 3.3-5.5 mg.

Roots:

Fibrous, tough, shallow with most less than 500 mm deep.

Key Characters:

Spikelets 6-10 mm long. Panicle loose when mature. Spikelet axis breaks between the lemmas that fall off with their paleas and the ripe grain. Pedicels of lateral spikelets 2-3 mm long.

Biology:

Life cycle:

Perennial. Flowers December to May or August. Seed germinates in Autumn or spring, when the temperature is greater than 10 degrees Celsius, and grows slowly up to the 5 leaf stage. Growth almost stops in winter and resumes in spring. Old plants sprout in spring. The main flowering is from spring to autumn with mature seed from mid summer to early winter.

Physiology:

Reproduction:

By seed.
Produces seed without fertilisation (apomictic).

Flowering times:

January to April in SA.
Summer in NSW.
December to May and August in Perth.
November to May and August in WA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Seeds germinate when the temperature is above 10oC.

Vegetative Propagules:

None.

Hybrids:

Cultivars have been selected for agricultural use. For example cultivar Consul is used as a soil stabiliser and pasture grass in range lands.

Allelopathy:

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

The seed moves a few metres by wind dispersal but the main transport is in produce, mud, in the gut of animals or in pasture seeds. Road making machinery spreads it along verges.

Origin and History:

South Africa.
Accidentally introduced to Australia before 1900.

Distribution:

NSW, NT, QLD, SA, VIC, WA.
45,000 ha is infested on the NSW tablelands.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Habitats:

Acid sandy soils, red earths and shallow stony soils. Semi-arid sub-tropical grasslands.

Climate:

Temperate. Semi arid sub tropical.
Most abundant in areas with an annual rainfall of 400-700 mm.

Soil:

Acid sandy soils and sandy loams.

Plant Associations:

Grass lands and open scrub lands.

Significance:

Beneficial:

Introduced as a forage grass. Relatively unpalatable. Some strains been selected for better palatability. Palatability is inversely proportional to tuft diameter (295).
Used for erosion control because of its tolerance of acidity (for mine sites) and sandy soils.
Improved varieties are used to compete with and replace Spiny Burr Grass in NSW.

Detrimental:

Weed of roadsides, railways, poorly managed pasture, grass land, perennial crops, rotation crops, disturbed areas, bush land and watercourses.

Toxicity:

Not recorded as toxic.

Legislation:

Noxious weed of NSW, VIC, SA and TAS

Management and Control:

Cultivation associated with cropping usually provides control. In pasture, grazing management and or the introduction of better suited pasture species usually provides control. Total herbicides such as glyphosate and amitrole with or without atrazine will control old plants to assist the introduction of new species. Flupropanate provides selective control in some perennial grasses.
In areas where management rather than control is desired, rotational grazing, fertilising with N, burning in autumn and or spring and introducing leguminous pasture species helps maintain African Lovegrass in a young and palatable form.
Fluproponate at 2 L/ha provides fairly selective control in roadside vegetation. Do a test strip to determine if off target damage is unacceptable It is slow acting so wait 6-12 months befare assessing the efficacy.

Thresholds:

Eradication strategies:

Cultivation and continuous grazing usually provides reasonable control.
Establish perennial pasture species or vigorous annuals and fertilise in pasture areas.
On roadsides, spraying the shoulders with 3-4 L/ha glyphosate(450g/L) annually in winter provides good control and helps reduce spread. Grass selective herbicides generally provide little or no control. Small infestations can be sprayed at any time of the year the plant is actively growing with a mixture of 100 mL glyphosate(450g/L) in 10 L water. Repeat applications are usually required to control seedlings that emerge after spraying.
It is difficult to remove manually because it has a tough fibrous root system and tillers tend to break off and regrow.
In bushland situations, a mix of 1 L glyphosate(450g/L) in 2 L water can be carefully painted onto the centres of individual plants, avoiding companion species. Control the Lovegrass for 2-3 years using herbicides and burning and then replant or encourage shrub and tree species to reduce the light levels in bushland areas.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

None available.

Related plants:

Browns Lovegrass (Eragrostis brownii)
Canegrass (Eragrostis australasica)
Delicate Lovegrass (Eragrostis tenellula)
Elastic grass (Eragrostis tenuifolia)
Heartseed grass (Eragrostis superba)
Knottybutt grass (Eragrostis xerophila)
Mallee Lovegrass (Eragrostis dielsii)
Mexican Lovegrass (Eragrostis mexicana)
Neat Lovegrass (Eragrostis basedowii)
Neverfail grass (Eragrostis setifolia)
Paddock Lovegrass (Eragrostis leptostachya)
Pitted Lovegrass (Eragrostis barrelieri)
Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis lacunaria)
Sickle Lovegrass (Eragrostis falcata)
Small Stinkgrass (Eragrostis minor)
Soft Lovegrass (Eragrostis pilosa)
Stinkgrass (Eragrostis cilianensis)
Teff grass (Eragrostis tef)
Weeping Lovegrass (Eragrostis parviflora) occurs in the north west of WA.
Woollybutt Grass (Eragrostis eriopoda)

Plants of similar appearance:

Parramatta Grass (Sporobolus indicus) is often confused with African Lovegrass. The panicle of Parramatta Grass is always held close to the stem and never opens widely.
Grasses.

References:

Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P47. Photo.

Black, J.M. (1978). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P195.

Ciba Geigy (1981) Grass Weeds 2. CIBA GEIGY Ltd, Basle, Switzerland. P68. Diagrams.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). p99. Photo.

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P54-55. Photo.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #506.7.

Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P960.

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. (1992). Noxious weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P106-109. Photos.

Paterson, J.G. (1977). Grasses in South Western Australia. (Western Australian Department of Agriculture Bulletin 4007). P50. Diagrams.

Acknowledgments:

Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.