Hare's-tail Grass

Lagurus ovatus L.

Family: Poaceae (Gramineae).

Names:

Lagurus is from the Greek lagos meaning a hare and oura meaning a tail and refers to the shape of the seed head or inflorescence.
Ovatus is derived from ova or egg and refers to the egg shaped seed head.
Hare's Tail Grass refers to the shape of the inflorescence and its membership of the grass family.

Other Names

Harestail.
Pussy Willow Grass.

Summary:

Hare's-tail Grass is a tufted annual grass to 30 cm high with pale green, softly hairy leaves. The inflorescence is a compact, cream to yellowish green egg shaped head that is softly hairy from the feather like glumes and long awned lemmas. The crowded compressed spikelets are 8-11 mm long, each with a single, softly-hairy floret. The outer segment (lemma) of the floret is 2-lobed at the tip, each lobe tapering into a slender hair-like bristle (awn). The lemma also has a darker bent bristle inserted lower down.
It is native to the Mediterranean region and is now a widespread weed of sandy soils particularly near the coast and frequently scattered through bushland. It flowers in late winter, spring and summer.

Description:

Cotyledons:

One.

First leaves:

Leaves:

Rolled in the bud.
Blade - Grey green, flat, lax, softly hairy, 10-200 mm long x 2-15 mm wide. 4-15 times as long as wide. Lower leaves parallel sided to narrowly egg shaped. Upper ones lance shaped. Hairs <0.5 mm long.
Ligule - 1-3 mm long, membranous, cut off squarely, toothed or fringed rim, short hairs on the outer surface.
Auricles - None, but leaf blade dilated in this region.
Sheath - Velvety hairy, uppermost sheath swollen. Hairs about 1 mm long.

Stem leaves - Smaller and more egg shaped than lower leaves.

Stems:

Velvety hairy below the nodes and panicle.
Variable in size depending on growing conditions. From 30 mm with a single seed head to over 600 mm tall with many seed heads.
Flower stem - 100-400(600) mm tall. Erect, sometime bent, and sometimes branched, hairy nodes. Doesn't root at the nodes.

Flower head:

Soft, silky white, woolly, dense, egg shaped to oval, spike-like panicle, (10)20-40(70) mm long x 10-20 mm wide (excluding awns) on an erect stem. Initially light green and turning straw coloured to almost white with age. Soft to touch. Sticks out (exerted) or enclosed in the uppermost sheath.
Main axis and branch axis hairy.
The flower heads persist on the plants for several months into summer.

Flowers:

Spikelets - Yellow to pale green, narrow, lance shaped, 8-11 mm long, laterally compressed, 1 flowered (rarely 2 flowered), shortly stalked (pedicelled), densely overlapping. Breaks (disarticulates) above the glumes.
Florets - 1, bisexual.
Glumes - 2, both the same size, persistent, narrowly oval, 1-3 nerved, keeled, tapering into a feathery awn, (6)8-11 mm long including the 5 mm long awn. Sparsely hairy with spreading hairs on the body and very hairy on the awns with hairs to 2 mm long. Initially green but soon fading to light brown.
Palea - Narrow, membranous, 2 nerved, 2 keeled, somewhat shorter than the lemma, apex shortly 2 lobed. Hairy on the edges and at the tip. 3.5-5 mm long.
Lemma - 1 (rarely 2), shorter than the glumes, 3-5 mm long excluding awns, thin, membranous, narrowly egg shaped, rounded on the back, 5 nerved with a bent and twisted slender awn on the back (dorsal awn) that is 8-18 mm long and two short terminal awns (bristles) 4-6 mm long. Hairless or minutely hairy and rough touch on the upper half and silky hairy in the lower part with hairs <0.5 mm long. The dorsal awn in 8-18 mm long.
Stamens - 3.
Anthers - 3. Prominent at maturity. 1 mm long.

Ovary - smooth and hairless.
Styles - free, short.
Stigmas - feather-like, laterally exerted.
Lodicules - 2, hyaline.

Fruit:

Callus small, 0.5 mm long, minutely hairy.

Seeds:

Grain. Parallel side, oblong, laterally compressed, soft. Tightly enclosed in the slightly hardened lemma.
Hilum basal, linear oblong, very short.
Embryo small.

Roots:

Fibrous.

Key Characters:

Leaves softly hairy
Inflorescence a dense, ovate, silky hairy, spike-like panicle.
Spikelets 1 flowered disarticulating above the glumes
Spikelets shortly pedicellate or subsessile.
1 rarely 2 fertile florets, 1 lemma, second lemma if present then rudimentary.
Floret bisexual.
3 stamens.
Glumes persistent, densely hairy, 1 nerved, narrow, tapering into a plumose awn as long as the base.
Glumes longer and firmer than the translucent lemma
Lemma membranous, 5 nerved with a long, dorsal geniculate awn arising between short awn like lobes.
Body of lemma shorter than and hidden by the glumes.
Panicle short, dense, ovoid
Adapted from J. Black, N. Burbidge, Ciba-Geigy, C.A. Gardner, G. Harden, T. Macfarlane

Biology:

Life cycle:

Annual. Germinates in autumn, grows over winter, flowers in spring and senesces with the onset of hot dry weather in summer. There is occasionally a second germination in spring but this rarely reaches maturity. The leaves may wither before flowering is complete in harsh seasons.

Physiology:

Tolerates full sun, part shade, salt, drought, frost and low nutrient soils.

Reproduction:

Seed.

Flowering times:

August to December with occasional flowers in March in Perth
September to December in SA.
September to December in Victoria.
Spring in NSW.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

None.

Hybrids:

None.

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by wind and animals and collection for dried flower arrangements.
Attaches readily to clothing and fur.

Origin and History:

Mediterranean.

Distribution:

ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA.
Esperance, Jarrah Forest, Hampton, Swan Coastal Plain and Warren regions in WA.
New Zealand, Europe, Southern Africa, North America and South America

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Habitats:

Disturbed areas especially in coastal locations.
Dry coastal vegetation, grasslands, woodlands, wetlands, saline and brackish wetlands, swamp edges.
Full sun to partly shaded areas.

Climate:

Temperate. Mediterranean.

Soil:

White, grey brown and black sands, infertile soils, dunes.
Often on calcareous soils.

Plant Associations:

Coastal heath.

Significance:

Beneficial:

Ornamental. Harvested and often dyed for use in dried flower arrangements.
Grazed by stock but poorly productive.

Detrimental:

Weed of disturbed land, rotation crops, poorly grazed pastures, coastal areas, roadsides, edges of swamps.

Toxicity:

None reported.

Symptoms:

Treatment:

Legislation:

None.
Listed a “Garden Thug”.

Management and Control:

Grazing and mowing normally provide control.
Group A grass selective 'Fop' herbicides provide good selective control at normal rates for annual grasses.

Thresholds:

Eradication strategies:

Prevent seed set for 2-3 years by mowing, grazing, cultivation, hand weeding or herbicides.
In sensitive areas where there is seedling native or broad-leaved plants, 16 mL Fusilade®Forte plus 100 mL spray oil in 10 L water, applied any time before flowering, when the plants are actively growing, will provide reasonable control and prevents seed set. The Fusilade®Forte rate may be reduced to 8 mL in winter when the grass has 2-8 leaves. Most other 'Fop' herbicides also provide good control.
Alternatively, 5 mL glyphosate(450g/L) plus 25 mL wetting agent per 10 L water applied in winter, when the grass is in the vegetative stage before flowering, will provide reasonably selective control in bushland. Use higher rates for higher levels of control in non-selective situations.
In bushland situations, encourage shrub and tree species to increase shade and competition.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

None.

Related plants:

None. There is only one species in this genus worldwide.

Plants of similar appearance:

Grasses.
Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) is similarly hairy when young but has a much more open seed head.
Cynosurus has a one sided inflorescence.

References:

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). Part 1. P179. Diagram.

Blood, K. (2001). Environmental weeds: a field guide for SE Australia. (CH Jerram & Associates, Australia). P206-207. Photos.

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). P50. Diagram.

Ciba Geigy (1981) Grass Weeds 2. CIBA GEIGY Ltd, Basle, Switzerland. P90. Diagrams.

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

Gardner, C.A. (1951) The Flora of Western Australia. Vol 1. Part 1. Gramineae. P145-146. Diagram P148.

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

Harden, Gwen J. (1991). Flora of NSW. (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney). Volume . P568. Diagram.

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. Photo.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P135. Photo.

Lazarides, M. and Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997). CSIRO handbook of Australian Weeds. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #577.1.

Marchant et al (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). 966.

Moore, J.H. and Wheeler, J.R. (2008). Southern Weeds and their Control. (Second Edition). Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia. P24-25. Photos.

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). P109.

Paterson, J.G. (1977). Grasses in South Western Australia. (Western Australian Department of Agriculture Bulletin 4007). P60.

Wheeler, Judy, Marchant, Neville and Lewington, Margaret. (2002). Flora of the South West: Bunbury - Augusta - Denmark. (Western Australian Herbarium, Bentley, Western Australia). P421. Diagram.

Acknowledgments:

Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 for more information.