Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Cenchrus echinatus L.

Click/tap on images to enlarge
Habit and fruit. © Mitchell, Andrew
Fruit. © Richardson, Rob & Fiona.
herbarium specimen. © DERM

Linnaeus, C. (1753) Species Plantarum Edn. 1 2: 1050. Type: Habitat in Jamaica, Curassao.

Common name

Mossman River Burr


An annual grass that is erect or decumbent at the base, somewhat tufted, branched; roots fibrous; culms 25-90 cm tall, the lower part often prostrate, compressed, rooting at the nodes, often reddish at the nodes.


Leaf sheaths smooth or with few stiff hairs on the margins on the upper portion; ligule 0.5-1.7 mm long, with marginal hairs; blades smooth to hairy, 5-30 x 0.5 to 1 cm, flat, lower surface smooth, upper side rough, slightly hairy at the base.


Inflorescence a spike, dense, cylindric, 2.5-10 cm long, ca. 1 cm in diameter; the burs five to 50 or more, not crowded, almost sessile, globular, densely arranged, 3-6 mm in diameter, 5-10 mm long; the spines or bristles 2-3.5 mm long, usually turning purple with age, sometimes straw-colored, the basal bristles numerous, usually turned downward, inner bristles attached below the middle of the the bur, bristles united for about one-half their length to form a deep cup, hairy, bristles irregular in size and thickness; spikelets two to four (usually three) in each bur, about 5-7 mm long.


Grains with adherent pericarp, ovoid, dorsally compressed, 1.6-3.2 x 1.3- 2.2 mm, truncate, glabrous.


Features not available.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and widespread elsewhere in Australia. Altitudinal range from near sea level to . Prefers sandy soils and grows in openings in rainforest, Eucalyptus forest, various types of woodland and commonly on coastal dunes. Also from Africa, India, Arabia and Asia.

Natural History & Notes

A widespread and common weed, particularly on sandy soils and at the beach

RFK Code
Copyright © CSIRO 2020, all rights reserved.