Identification of serrated tussock

Serrated tussock is commonly confused with a number of native tussock grasses.

This information provides a general guide, but if in doubt seek expert advice. To find out who to contact in your region click here.

Identifying serrated tussock

  • Serrated tussock changes colour with the seasons.  Plants appear purple when flowering in late spring/early summer.
  • Once the seed ripens in late summer, flower heads change to a golden brown colour with a light green tussock base.
  • Plants remain green during summer, when other grasses have usually browned off.
  • Some older leaves may die and remain beige on the plant for several years.  Younger plants are a bright green colour while older plants may be a light green colour when recovering from burning or slashing.
  • In frost prone areas, the tussocks are bleached a golden yellow colour by frost during late autumn and winter.
  • Serrated tussock has white swollen leaf bases (like a shallot) while the tips of old leaves often have a bleached fawn tip.
  • The flowering stems weep over almost touching the ground.  Weeping flower heads break off at maturity and are easily dispersed by wind tumbling along the landscape.
  • The leaves are thin, tightly rolled, hairless with very fine silica serrations that can be felt if the finger and thumb are carefully pulled along the leaves from the tip towards the base in a downward motion.
  • Serrated tussock has a dense fibrous root system and is difficult to pull from the ground, even when small.
  • Serrated tussock has a small (1 mm long) white hairless ligule.  The ligule is a membranous appendage that appears where the leaf separates from the stem.  To find the ligule follow the leaf to the junction with its stem.  Carefully separate and bend the leaf back.  In serrated tussock a small membranous flap with a rounded tip will protrude vertically at the junction of the leaf blade and leaf sheath.
  • Its seeds are 1.5 - 2 mm long and enclosed in two reddish brown or purple bracts, 6 - 10 mm long which taper gradually to a point.  The seed has a tuft of short white silky hairs at one end and a long twisted awn at the other end.  The awn is attached to the seed off centre and its length varies.

For a detailed guide to the identification of serrated tussock refer to the Serrated Tussock – national best practice manual.

For a useful key to the species go to PlantNET Flora online.

For useful images click here.

Source: "Serrated tussock - national best practice manual"

Key identifying features

  • Tussocky grass up to 60cm tall

  • Thin, tightly rolled, hairless leaves with very fine serrations

  • White hairless ligule

  • White swollen leaf bases

  • Purple tinge to flower heads, later turning golden as the seeds ripen

  • Weeping flower heads that break off at maturity

  • Difficult to pull from the ground, even when small