Australia GUINEA Grass (Panicum maximum) is an African tropical grass native to Guinea.
It was introduced into Australia as a fodder grass for cattle and sheep.
But it is now also considered a highly invasive major threat to the Australian environment.
Guinea grass is found in all coastal areas and up to a thousand kilometres inland of the Queensland coast and in northern New South Wales. Iit can completely dominates natural areas where it has escaped paddocks and colonised natural areas.
The seeds can be easily spread on the fur of animals, on vehicles, by nesting birds, on clothing, and by wind and water.
The grass will dominate all areas without cattle, such as urban vacant sites, riparian areas, crops, nature strips, and roadsides.
Sugarcane growing conditions are ideal for Guinea Grass, as it can withstand low pH and high aluminium levels in soils.
It is an ideal fodder grass for livestock and kangaroos because it grows well on a wide variety of soils, varying moisture levels, and in fairly heavy shade to full sunlight. It can survive long dry spells and hot fires which does not harm the underground roots. Its resistance to drought also means it survives and builds up a highly flammable mass of plant material. A guinea grass fire can be very hot and native plants such as rainforest plants or riparian plants can be wiped out.
Guinea Grass fires kills nesting birds, slow- moving animals such as wombats and bandicoots, and most native plants and trees. Because of its deep, large root system, guinea grass can regenerate quickly after hot fires and out-compete native plant seedlings.
Green panic (Panicum maximum var. trichoglume) is a closely related species that differs from guinea grass in that it has softly hairy seeds. It also is an environmental weed.
Because of its economic value to pastoralists it is still allowed to be introduced into new areas and grown as fodder for cattle in spite of its extensive ecological damage to Australian plants and animals.
Australia has about 1500 environmental weeds. Queensland has 1175 known weed species.
In 2005 weeds cost the Australian economy one billion dollars in control and stopping their introduction to the country.
Guinea grass is a perennial clumping grass species. It commonly grows to around 1.5 to 2.5metres tall. The leaf blades are long, broad, finely tipped, and 70cm long and 1-2cm wide. They have a prominent mid-rib.
Seed heads are large (up to 40cm long) and are well-spread, with many fine branches. Seeds are oblong and are often purple and are about 3mm long and 1.5mm wide.
Control methods include most common herbicides, cultivation of the soil, mowing, or digging the plant clumps out. Guinea grass leaves and seed heads can be fed to livestock, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, finches or small parrots.
. Article writer Ian Read can be contacted 074159 9365, or email ian.read7@bigpond. com.au for free weed identification, weed presentations, and native plants advice, and for landscaping and weed control.
. Phone Landcare president Michael Johnson on 0422 297 062 for weed project details and monthly meeting times, or email email@example.com
. The Bundaberg Landcare Nursery at the Salvation Army Tom Quinn Centre, Doctor May’s Rd, is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10am-4pm for native plants.