Cane Needle Grass

​​​​​​​(Nassella hyalina)

Cane Source 

Image: cane needle grass, © D. McLaren, Australian Plant Image Index

What is Cane needle grass?     

  • Cane needle grass is a serious weed of grasslands, pastures, woodlands and disturbed areas on fertile soils. 

  • Cane needle grass is a declared weed in Tasmania under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of Cane needle grass are prohibited in Tasmania.

  • Cane needle grass is on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds, a list of 28 non native plants that threaten biodiversity and cause other environmental damage.

  • Cane needle grass is closely related to Serrated tussock, and Chilean needle grass, which are both Weeds of National Significance (WoNS).​

Image: cane needle grass, © D. McLaren, Australian Plant Image Index​

How to identify Cane needle grass

  • Cane needle grass is a tussock forming perennial grass growing up to 20cm high with tall erect flower stems resembling a cane.

  • Cane needle grass has linear leaves that are flat or rolled inwards and are rough to the touch.

  • The erect seed head is an open panicle with many flower spikelets, but it also produces hard, nut-like stem seeds (cleistogenes) within the leaf sheath at the stem joints (nodes).The seeds are 4-5 mm long and have a long bristle or awn, which is twisted near the base and twice bent.

  • The seeds of cane needle grass are very sharp and clinging and readily attach themselves to clothing, fur and machinery/equipment. The seed can also contaminate wool and injure sheep by imbedding in skin and eyes.

  • Seeds can be spread when soil is moved. Cane needle grass seed can also be readily transported in hay.

  • Cane needle grass is drought tolerant and forms dense, competitive infestations.

  • It has only intermediate feed value to stock which are likely to avoid the plant when more palatable pasture species are present.

  • See the Nassella species identification comparison table below for more information on identification.

 Cane Needle

Image: seeds caught in clothing, © Catherin Herms, Ohio State University

Cane needle grass in Tasmania

Cane needle grass is not naturalised in Tasmania at present.

What is the legal status of Cane needle grass in your area?

The legal responsibilities of landholders and other stakeholders in dealing with Cane needle grass are laid out in the Cane Needle Grass Statutory Weed Management Plan.

What you need to do?

If you locate Cane needle grass anywhere in Tasmania, or if you find a plant that you think could be Cane needle grass, immediately contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 to report this weed.


See also        

Cane Needl​e Grass Statutory Management Plan
Weed Links and Resources


Other useful links


Nassella species identification comparison table

​Lobed Needle Grass
Cane Needle Grass​​
​Texas Needle Grass
Chilean Needle Grass​​
​Serrated Tussock
​Introduced Declared; an Alert List Weed 
Introduced; Declared;
an Alert List Weed.​
Introduced; Declared;
an Alert List Weed.

Introduced; Declared;
Weed of National Significance.

Introduced; Declared;
Weed of National Significance

(outer casing of seed, the 'glume', removed to reveal detail.)
Seed Lobed Needle Grass

Seed Chilean Needle Grass

Seed Serrated Tussock

​"Corona", the collar at seed base
​'Awn", the bristle like seed tail


double bent

firmly fixed to seed coat​

Twisted and bent​​

​35-60mm long 
Bent twice with 10-20mm to first bend​

​25-35mm Straight or double bent.
Firmly fixed seed coat​

Readily detached from seed coat

​'Cleistogenes', or stem seeds

'Ligule', the flap at leaf base

Seed Ligule Lobed Needle Grass

Ligule Chilean Needle Grass
Ligule Serrated Tussock

Overall dimensions
​0.5-1.0m high
0.3 -0​.5m ac​ross
to 1m high
0.3m across

​1-1.5m high
0.2 -0.5m across

1​-1.5m high
0.3 -0.6m across

1m high,
0.6m acros

* Images in table:
© 2003 Weed Management Guides, Lobed needle grassChilean needle grassSerrated tussock, C'wlth Dept of the Env't & Heritage.
© Chilean Needle Grass & Serrated Tussock Ligule photos: Harry Rose (Wikimedia).​

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