Pacific Pests, Pathogens and Weeds - Online edition

Pacific Pests, Pathogens, Weeds & Pesticides

Mission grass (469)

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  • Widespread. Asia, Africa, North, South, Central America, Caribbean, Oceania. In many Pacific islands.
  • Perennial grass, impacting native species and crops, producing masses of seeds and forming large continuous expanses. Particularly invasive in fallows after crop harvests, but also along roadsides and in national parks. Remains green until late in dry season, providing fuel for hotter fires later.
  • Upright, slender, hairless stems, arising from crown at the base, up to 3 m tall. Stems with 5-10 nodes, sometimes with roots. Leaves, with sheath partially enclosing stems; leaf blades up to 45 cm, with fringe of hairs where sheaths meets leaf blades. Seedheads, up to 35 cm long, erect or slightly drooping, yellow, with many densely packed, stalkless, flower spikelets, surrounded by numerous feathery bristles. Seeds with bristles.
  • Spread: seed, by wind, animals; contaminated hay; vehicles and machinery; as a contaminant of seed; an ornamental.; or a pasture grass.
  • Biosecurity: high risk of introduction; accidental contaminant of seeds; intentional as an ornamental or pasture grass. Noxious weed in parts of USA.
  • Biocontrol: little reported.
  • Cultural control: hand weeding, slashing or moving (before release of seed); plough and harrowing (replant with grass and/or legume); fire; vehicle hygiene; mission grass-free hay.
  • Chemical control: in Australia, glyphosate (and Fiji); imazapyr; imazapyr + glyphosate.
Common Name

Mission grass; it is also known as perennial mission grass, blue buffel grass, elephant grass.

Scientific Name

Cenchrus polystachios. It was previous known as Pennisetum polystachion. Cenchrus polystachios is similar to Cenchrus pedicellatus which is an annual. It is a members of the Poaceae.

AUTHORS Grahame Jackson, Aradhana Deesh & Mani Mua
Adapted from Cenchrus polystachios (L.) Morrone (2016) Weeds of Australia. Biosecurity Queensland Edition. Queensland Government, Identic, Lucid. (; and additional information from CABI (2019) Pennisetum polystachion (mission grass). Invasive Species Compendium. (; and Mission grass (2020) NT.GOV.AU. (; and CHAH (2011) Cenchrus polystachios (L.) Morrone. WeedsAustralia - profiles. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. ( and from Mission grass, perennial Cenchrus polystachios. Northern Territory Government. ( Photos 1,2,4,5 Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Photo 7 Julia Scher, Federal Noxious Weeds Disseminules, USDA APHIS PPQ,

Produced with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research under project HORT/2016/185: Responding to emerging pest and disease threats to horticulture in the Pacific islands, implemented by the University of Queensland, in association with the Pacific Community and Koronivia Research Station, Ministry of Agriculture, Fiji.

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