Black speargrass (Heteropogon contortus) in the Western Australian rangelands

Page last updated: Friday, 9 July 2021 - 8:54am

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Black speargrass (Heteropogon contortus) is one of many plant species found in the Western Australian rangelands. This page provides a summary of the plant's value for pastoralism. Pastoral lessees and station managers can use this information to assess pasture condition and trend.

Indicator value

In many pastures where black speargrass (Heteropogon contortus) is dominant, it indicates fair pasture condition. It is an intermediate species in most pastures because it tends to be an invader on better pasture types. In black speargrass pastures, it is considered a desirable species, though it is not a useful indicator species.

Forage value

Black speargrass is moderately palatable to livestock when green. Once mature, it becomes rank and unpalatable. A cool burn when there is still some soil moisture will encourage 'green pick' which is palatable to livestock.


Grows on a variety of soils, but more common on red soils.

General description

Black speargrass is an upright, leafy perennial grass that can grow to 100cm tall, with slender branched stems. The leaf blades are long and narrow when green and redden with age. The seed heads consist of a single closely spaced spike about 10–15cm long. These characteristically tangle together when mature. It flowers from February to May.

Black speargrass (Heteropogon contortus) in the Western Australian rangelands