The life cycle of serrated tussock

Serrated tussock is a perennial plant, meaning it grows for two years or more. Serrated tussock moves through its lifecycle by germinating, producing seedlings, progressing through active growth, where it flowers then seeds, repeating the cycle.

More information can be found in the in the National Serrated Tussock Best Practice Manual and the VSTWP Identification of Serrated Tussock guide.

Step 1: Germination

Germination mainly occurs through autumn and winter, but may occur at anytime in the year following significant rainfall and in response to soil disturbance.

Step 2. Seedlings

Seedlings are weak and slow growing and more likely to establish on bare ground with limited competition. Their establishment is critical over the summer months. It is during this time that if the seedlings become stressed by competition for moisture or light, their chance of survival is reduced.

Step 3: Active growth

Established serrated tussock plants actively grow in favourable autumns and in spring and early summer when sufficient soil moisture is available.

Step 4: Flowering

Flowering stems emerge from the base of the tussock as early as late winter and will continue throughout the spring. The flowering stem/seed head is a panicle (multi-branched) up to 35cm long. The purple colour of the seeds produces an overall purplish haze to the serrated tussock seed head. Once the seeds have formed, the entire seed head will droop over the tussock towards the ground.

Step 5: Seeds

Seeds take eight to ten weeks to mature once the flowering stems emerge. This will normally occur throughout the spring and summer months. Once seeds are ripe, the whole flowering stem detaches from the base of the plant and is dispersed by the wind. Seed is dormant when first dispersed and will not germinate until dormancy has broken (approximately six months).

Step 6: Bleaching

Bleaching from frost may occur in late autumn and winter, turning the plant golden yellow in colour – which can help with identification in winter.