Blind grass

Stypandra glauca R.Br.

Synonyms - Stypandra grandiflora, Stypandra imbricata.

Family: Phormiaceae (was Hemerocallidaceae or Liliaceae)

Names:

Stypandra is from the Greek stype to tow or for flax fibres and andros for man and refers to the woolly stamens.
Glauca is from the Greek glaukos meaning sea green which refers to the bluish colour of the leaves.
Blind grass refers to its toxic effect on sheep that can send them blind and it grass like leaves.

Other Names

Blindgrass
Candyup poison (SW of WA and NSW)
Graceful blue lily
Grass lily
Nodding blue lily

Summary:

It has blue flowers with 6 petals and yellow stamens that appear during late winter and spring. The grass-like leaves are up to 200 mm long, bluish-green and clasp the stem in an alternate arrangement. It is a perennial, multi-stemmed tufted plant that looks like a shrub about 1 m tall with a rhizomes and a fibrous root system.

Description:

Cotyledons:

One.

First leaves:

Leaves:

Alternate along the stem and in a flat plane.
Blade - Slightly bluish-green turning brown-black as they age. Parallel sided to lance shaped, clasp stem. 10-200 mm long x 0.5-15 mm wide. Folded or flat. Smooth, hairless and somewhat stiff. Equitant (sheathing at the base, fused near the middle and open near the top).
Ligule - None
Auricles - None
Sheath - Stem clasping, overlapping but not crowded, somewhat softer than the blade.

Stems:

300 - 1000 mm long, sprawling to erect. Woody at the base. Hidden by the sheaths of the alternate leaves. Branches often present in the axils with smaller leaves.

Flower head:

Few to many drooping flowers on slender stalks. Slender, terminal, dichotomous cyme. The lower branchlets of the cyme are subtended by egg shaped leafy bracts.
Flower stalk (pedicel) thread like and curved, 12-20 mm long.

Flowers:

Usually blue occasionally white, 8-16 mm long. Bisexual with prominent yellow stamens.
Ovary - 3 celled with several ovules in each cell.
Style - undivided.
Stigma - Entire, small.
Perianth - Bright blue with 6 narrowly elliptic "petals", 8-16 mm long. Each "petal" has 3-5 nerves and is thin on the edges and often bent back. Deciduous but not twisted. Smooth and hairless.
Stamens - 6. Pendulous, 10 mm long. Shorter than the "petals". Dense golden woolly beard on the filament under the anther. Filaments kinked below the middle.
Anthers - Yellow, bearded. Curved. 1-2 mm long. Opening by longitudinal slits. Introrse recurved or coiled after dehiscence. Attached at the base.

Fruit:

Leathery, oblong-triangular, black capsule. 3-12 mm long. 3 valved with 3-6 seeds in each cell.

Seeds:

Black. 1.5-5 mm long. smooth and egg shaped and pointed. Dull or glistening. Smooth and hairless.

Roots:

Creeping or compact rhizomes and fibrous roots.

Key Characters:

Alternate leaves to 200 mm long.
Flowers with 6 bright blue (or occasionally white) 'petals'
Creeping rhizome.

Biology:

Life cycle:

Perennial. Seeds germinate in autumn. Aerial stems may flower when less than 300 mm long. Becomes multi-stemmed and bushy with age.

Physiology:

Frost tolerant
Drought tolerant

Reproduction:

By seed and rhizomes.

Flowering times:

Usually spring with some in late winter.
August to October in SA.
Spring in NSW.
August to early November in Perth.
August to November in WA

Seed Biology and Germination:

Seeds tend to germinate in autumn but have a very staggered germination and may take months to germinate.

Vegetative Propagules:

Rhizomes.

Hybrids:

Morphologically this is a variable species.

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed and rhizomes. May be spread in garden refuse.

Origin and History:

Native to Australia.
It was first described by Robert Brown in 1810 in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae

Distribution:

ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, VIC, WA.
New Caledonia.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Habitats:

Prefers full sun to part shade areas.
Often thrives after fire.

Climate:

Temperate.

Soil:

Prefers sandy, granite, shale, limestone, clay.
Sometimes on lateritic soils.
On skeletal and red earth soils in NSW.

Plant Associations:

Dry sclerophyll forest. Eucalypt woodland
mugga ironbark, currawang, white cypress pine.

Significance:

Beneficial:

Ornamental garden plant.

Detrimental:

May be toxic.

Toxicity:

Two of the species in WA (S imbricata and S. grandiflora) are toxic. These two species are now combined as S. glauca.
Horses are most prone followed by sheep to poisoning. There are also reports of affects on goats, poultry and alpacas.
The toxic component is unknown but appears to have selective action on some parts of the nervous system and may cause degeneration of the optic nerve.
It appears to be most toxic during the period of regrowth following early winter rains. Feeding tests indicate that it was not toxic at flowering or times other than during rapid growth, however NSW literature reports toxicity at flowering.
Young green growth appears to be more palatable and the most toxic.
Toxicity in the field is often limited because it is often not grazed.

Symptoms:

Blindness and locomotory disturbances.
These symptoms appear on the fourth day after ingestion of significant quantities.
Other symptoms include. prominence of the eyes (exophthalmos), fully dilated pupils, slight opacity of the cornea, tendency to "knuckle over" when walking, inability to extend legs and inability to stand.
Horses tend to show lameness followed b recovery in a few weeks.

Treatment:

Remove stock quietly from infested area. Don't allow stock access to infested areas when fresh new growth is present.
Sheep may recover from locomotion problems but the blindness is permanent.

Legislation:

None.

Management and Control:

Control mature plants when actively growing by spot spraying with 1 L glyphosate450 + 10 g metsulfruon600 plus 250 mL wetting agent per 100 L water.
Fence off infested areas such as granite outcrops to exclude stock.

Thresholds:

Very low, especially for horses.
Not normally a crop or pasture weed.

Eradication strategies:

Control mature plants when actively growing by spot spraying with 1 L glyphosate450 + 10 g metsulfruon600 plus 250 mL wetting agent per 100 L water. Repeat in 6 months if necessary. Hand pull or spray seedlings each spring until no more can be found.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

None.

Related plants:

Stypandra grandiflora and Stypandra imbricata have been amalgamated as variants of Stypandra glauca.
Stypandra grandiflora is the common in the lower SW of WA. The leaves are more or less regularly arranged along the lower portions of the stems, their bases overlapping and regularly alternating. The stems have creeping underground portions and later assume an erect habit. The flowers are usually pale blue. They typically occur in granite outcrops.
Stypandra imbricata is found in the wheatbelt. It is a taller more erect plant with smaller leaves clustered on very short side shoots of the stems. The leaves are green and the flowers a deep blue and smaller than S. grandiflora. It grows on granitic soils but doesn't have the same creeping habit.
Stypandra jamesii is endemic to a small area of WA.
Tufted blue-lily (Thelionema caespitosum was Stypandra caespitosa) has basal leaves to 400 mm long with more erect flowers and no rhizome.
Thelionema umbellatum was Stypandra umbellata.
Thelionema grande was Stypandra grandis.
Dianella species are in the same family and have similar flowers but different foliage and fruit.

Plants of similar appearance:

Burchardia umbellata has white flowers.

References:

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). Part 1. Third edition. P355.

Bodkin, F. (1986). Encyclopaedia Botanica. (Angus and Robertson, Australia).

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P100. Diagram P103

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P185.

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).

Gardner, G.A. and Bennetts, H.W. (1956). The toxic plants of Western Australia. (West Australian Newspapers Ltd, Perth). P15-17. Plate 1.

Harden, Gwen J. (1991). Flora of NSW. (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney). Volume . P. Diagram P79.

Marchant et al (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P757-758.

Paczkowska, G. and Chapman, A. (2000). The Western Australia flora: a descriptive catalogue. (Wildflower Society of Western Australia (Inc), the Western Australian Herbarium, CALM and the Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority). P93.

Wheeler, Judy, Marchant, Neville and Lewington, Margaret. (2002). Flora of the South West: Bunbury - Augusta - Denmark. (Western Australian Herbarium, Bentley, Western Australia). P393.

Acknowledgments:

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