The identification of serrated tussock can sometimes be difficult, especially when the seed head is not present. It can often look like other species of grasses. You can download a copy of the Identification Guide by clicking here, which also highlights some look-alike species.
Several structures of the plant can be examined to identify the plant as serrated tussock.
The identification of serrated tussock can sometimes be difficult, especially when the seed head is not present. It can often look like other species of grasses. We have created an identification guide that can help you single out serrated tussock from some look-alike species.
Serrated tussock is a tufted perennial grass which grows to a height of 50cm. The plant may appear fuzzy from a distance due to its many leaf blades. Immature plants stand erect whereas mature plants tend to droop and when in seed may appear to have a purple haze or halo.
Plants will appear lime green in colour during the warmer months, even through the driest summers, and bleached yellow in the cooler months, mostly due to frost damage.
In late spring and early summer a mass of flowering serrated tussock can have a purple appearance.
Serrated tussock changes colour with the seasons. In late spring and early summer, the plant flowers and appears purple.
Once the seed ripens in late summer, flower heads change to a golden brown colour with a light green tussock base.
During summer, while other grasses have usually died off, serrated tussock plants remain green. Some older leaves may die and remain beige on the plant for several years.
The flowering heads of serrated tussock can weep over the entire tussock and touch the ground.
Using the flowering stems and seed heads is one of the easiest way to identify serrated tussock.
The flowering stem of serrated tussock can be up to 90cm, twice as long as the leaves. Once the seed is ripe, the flowering stem will weep over the entire plant to touch the ground.
The seed head is an open panicle (multi-branched stem) up to 35cm long with two or three branches at each junction and one seed at the end of each branch.
The seed head is purple soon after flowering, and then turns a golden brown when the seed has matured. The entire flowering stem will break off from the base of the plant once the seed has ripened.
Fine serrations can be felt when the leaves of serrated tussock are run between the finger from tip to base.
Source: DEPI Victoria
Serrated tussock has numerous thin leaves, up to 50cm long, emerging from the base to form a large tussock. They are tightly rolled and finely serrated with white bases.
The fine serrations on the leaves of serrated tussock can be felt if the finger and thumb are carefully pulled along the leaf from the tip to the base.
When the serrated tussock leaf is rolled between the finger and thumb, it will role smoothly like a needle. This differentiates serrated tussock from some similar native grass species, which feel like they have flat edges.
The ligule is a membranous or hairy appendage that occurs at the junction where the leaf separates from the stem.
To find the ligule, trace down a leaf to its junction with the stem. Carefully separate and bend the leaf back. If a grass has a ligule, it is a small, membranous or hairy flap that protudes.
The ligule of serrated tussock is continouis with the leaf sheath, is small (1mm long), white, has a rounded tip and is never hairy. Most grasses that are confused with serrated tussock have hairy ligules.
Serrated tussock roots are fibrous.
Source: DEPI Victoria
Serrated tussock has a large, extensive and fibrous root system, making it difficult to pull from the ground, even when small.
The serrated tussock seed head is an open panicle or multi-branched stem.
Source: DEPI Victoria
The seed of serrated tussock is unlike the seed of any other tussock grass that it may be confused with. Serrated tussock seeds are 1.5 – 2mm long and enclosed in two reddish brown or purple bracts (glumes), 6 – 10mm 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. In Victoria, the awn can be up to 35mm long.