​(Cenchrus longisetus)

Image: feathertop, © Penny Hussey.

What is feathertop

  • Feathertop (Cenchrus longisetus, syn. Pennisetum villosum), is a pasture weed.
  • Feathertop is a declared weed under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of feathertop are prohibited in Tasmania.

How to identify feathertop

  • Feathertop is a perennial (long-lived) tussock-forming grass growing to 90 cm high. The stems are cylindrical, erect or slightly bent, with several stems emerging from a crown. Each stem has up to 6 green or blue-green leaves, 6 to 30 cm long, 2 to 6 cm wide and finely serrated along the edges. The distinctive flower head is a dense, feathery spike 2 to 12 cm long, and gives the plant its name.
  • Seeds germinate in summer but few seedlings survive in the field. Flowering occurs in late summer and seeds are produced in March and April. The plant dries out in winter and new shoots are produced from the rhizomes (underground stems) in the following spring and summer.
  • For help in identifying feathertop, search the Dennis Morris Weeds and Endemic Flora Database. If you are still in doubt about the weed you are dealing with, contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 for help. 

Feathertop in Tasmania

  • The distribution of feathertop in Tasmania is relatively limited. Feathertop prefers disturbed soils and occurs as an occasional weed of degraded pastures, roadsides, creeks and neglected areas on Flinders and Cape Barren Islands and around Hobart and South Launceston. Feathertop also occasionally appears in the ornamental plant trade.
  • Feathertop is unpalatable and dense infestations of the tussocks can reduce the productivity of grazing areas.

What is the legal status of feathertop in your area?

The legal responsibilities of landholders and other stakeholders in dealing with feathertop are laid out in the Statutory Weed Management Plan for Feathertop.

Use Table 1 (Zone A municipalities) in the Statutory Weed Management Plan for Feathertop to find out if this weed occurs in your municipality.

Detailed management and control guidelines for feathertop can be found in the Feathertop Control Guide. Refer also to Herbicides for Feathertop Control. For further information see Weed Links and Resources.

See also
Herbicides for Feathertop Control
Statutory Weed Management Plan for Feathertop
Weed Links and Resources

Other useful links
Pest Genie

Feathertop Control Guide


  • Plan your control program, this will save time and money in the long-run;
  • Consider the impact of your control methods on off-target species, especially if herbicides are used;
  • Ensure machinery and equipment is washed down between sites or prior to contractors leaving site;
  • Get in early - for new infestations, eradicate before the plants reach the flowering stage: once plants begin seeding, control becomes more difficult and expensive;
  • Carefully time your use of herbicide for best results (see Herbicides for Feathertop Control for more information);
  • Coordinate your control program with neighbouring landholders where your weed problem crosses property boundaries;
  • Revisit and regularly inspect the site and ensure follow-up is undertaken;
  • Use a combination of different control methods; and
  • Establish vigorous pasture (or native species) after removal to reduce re-infestation.


  • Don't introduce feathertop to feathertop-free areas (e.g. by failing to wash down machinery and equipment between sites);
  • Don't start your control program without first planning your approach;
  • Don't allow feathertop to flower and set seed before treatment;
  • Don't rely on one attempt at removal - follow-up is essential; and
  • Don't rely on just one control method.

Spread of feathertop

  • Feathertop produces seed, but few seedlings survive and establish. Local spread is by yearly rhizome growth which increases the size and density of colonies.
  • Long-distance spread occurs when fragments of rhizome are moved during cultivation and road-grading activities.

Avoid the introduction of feathertop

  • Feathertop is usually spread by small fragments of rhizome being picked up and moved in soil on machinery and tools.
  • All machinery and tools used around feathertop should be carefully cleaned to prevent fragments of rhizomes being transported from the site to other areas.

Physical removal

  • Small feathertop plants can be removed using a spade or mattock.
  • Ensure all soil is removed down to the level of the deepest rhizomes, as rhizome material left in the soil will quickly regenerate.
  • Larger plants may need heavy machinery such as an excavator for removal of the whole plant. Again, all soil down to the deepest rhizomes must be removed and piled in an area that can be easily monitored for regrowth.
  • Excavation can be used to reduce the size of an feathertop infestation, allowing easier follow up with cultivation or herbicide.


  • Feathertop can be controlled through repeated cultivation until all rhizomes are exhausted. Continue to cultivate until the feathertop ceases to regenerate.
  • A single cultivation will only spread rhizome fragments to clean areas and create more infestations.

Chemical control

Herbicides for Feathertop Control

Herbicides for Feathertop Control

Important Disclaimer

To the extent permitted by law, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (including its employees and consultants) excludes all liability to any person for any consequences, including but not limited to all losses, damages, costs, expenses and any other compensation, arising directly or indirectly from using information or material (in part or in whole) contained on this website.