One of the most recognizable members of the grass family Poaceae in Australia. Also known as T. australis. A tufted perennial to 1.5 m tall and 0.5 m across. Leaves 10-50 cm long and 2-5 mm wide, green to grey drying to an orange brown in summer. Flowers in December to February – large red-brown spikelets, which occur on branched stems. Spikelets have long distinguishing spathes at their base and bare florets with black awns 4-7 cm long, which remain with the seed when it falls. Can be grown from seed or by division of older clumps, although it doesn’t transplant well. Generally the seed has a dormancy period of up to 12 months depending on the area where it was collected. Fire or temperatures of 40-45 degrees Celsius may also break dormancy. Approximately 2-3 of seed collected from one inflorescence will be infertile. It is sometimes hard to distinguish fertile from infertile seeds as they both turn brown and hold on to their awns, generally fertile seed is larger.

Photo: Robert Whyte

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Themeda – from the Arabic word thaemed, which means a depression in which water lies after rain, subsequently drying in summer.
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